Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou will seek to open political negotiations with Beijing if he is re-elected, a leaked US diplomatic cable says -- contrary to his public statements.
The idea of political, as opposed to trade, talks with the mainland is highly sensitive in Taiwan, which Beijing still regards as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
The two split in 1949 at the end of a civil war, and Ma's administration has said it has no plans for political negotiations with Beijing.
But Taiwan's vice president Vincent Siew told Stephen Young, then director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy, that Ma would seek to start them if he was re-elected in 2012, according to the cable published by WikiLeaks.
Siew made the remarks in 2009 when Young paid him a farewell call.
"If Ma is re-elected in 2012, observed the vice president, the administration will confront the more difficult challenge of resolving outstanding cross-Strait political issues," the cable said.
The issues may include "a peace treaty, a formal end to hostilities, and development of bilateral military confidence mechanisms," Siew was quoted as saying.
"These 'highly political' issues will be controversial in Taiwan," said Siew, "but (we) should be able to build on four years of cooperative engagement on economic issues."
Ties between Taiwan and its giant neighbour have improved significantly since the Beijing-friendly and economics-focused Kuomintang party took power in Taipei in 2008.
In June last year Taiwan and China signed the landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), a pact widely characterised as the boldest step yet towards reconciliation.
However, the island's leading pro-independence opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has repeatedly accused Ma of trading Taiwan's sovereignty for economic benefits from Beijing.
DPP chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, the party's presidential candidate told supporters at a rally in central Taichung on Saturday night that Ma might sell out Taiwan in his second term, an allegation the incumbent flatly rejects.
Tsai, the island's first female presidential candidate, will take on Ma who is seeking a second and final four-year term, in January's vote.