Taiwan’s most senior envoy dealing with China said on Wednesday that he had offered his resignation, in what was seen as a surprise move as relations improve following decades of tension.
Chiang Pin-kung, who heads the quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation, said he had tendered his resignation to President Ma Ying-jeou because of his age -- 77 -- and health.
“President Ma told me this is a critical moment and asked me to stay on... but I told the president I hope to spend more time with my family,” he said.
He said he had first asked to resign last year but was asked to stay.
Ties between China and Taiwan, which split in 1949 after a civil war, have improved dramatically since Ma of the China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power in Taipei last May.
Chiang has helped forge a wave of agreements with his Chinese counterpart Chen Yunlin which have led to regular direct flights and greater cooperation across the Taiwan Strait.
The two sides still conduct relations through the semi-official bodies, a legacy of six decades of diplomatic estrangement.
Some newspaper and magazine reports have suggested Chiang’s family gained more business from warming ties, allegations he has flatly rejected as being politically motivated to force him to quit.
Ma’s predecessor as president, Chen Shui-bian, frequently irked China with his pro-independence rhetoric. Beijing views Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.