No comment from Presidential Office on reported Ma-Xi meeting

Taipei, Feb. 25 (CNA) The Presidential Office declined to comment Wednesday on reports that a meeting between President Ma Ying-jeou (???) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping (???) had originally been planned last year. The Presidential Office said that despite various suggestions on the time and venue of a Ma-Xi meeting, Ma has always maintained that the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing in November 2014 was the most suitable occasion. The office was responding to a local news report that a Ma-Xi meeting was originally planned for last August on Taiwan's outlying island of Kinmen. That meeting never took place. The Liberty Times reported that during an investigation of former Deputy Mainland Affairs Minister Chang Hsien-yao (???) for his alleged leaking of national secrets to China, Chang divulged that both sides had planned to hold a meeting on Aug. 23 -- the 56th anniversary of China's artillery bombardment of the former frontline island in 1958. Chang said that Taiwan had several options for the meeting, with the meeting taking place during an APEC summit in November 2014 in Beijing at best, with the other options listed as either third country such as Singapore or on Kinmen, Chang is reported to have said. The Taiwanese side had begun to work on a speech to be delivered by Ma and even selected a knife made from recovered artillery shell casings to be used as a gift for Xi, according to Chang. Chang resigned from his post in August 2014, but later issued a statement to say that he was told to leave on short notice. The Presidential Office said that as the prosecution could not divulge the content of the investigation, the Presidential Office also could not comment on the reports. The prosecution decided on Feb. 10 not to indict Chang due to lack of evidence against him. Meanwhile, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Andrew Hsia (???) said that Ma's meeting with his Chinese counterpart must be held at a suitable time and occasion and must be in the interests of the people. The MAC feels the APEC summit in Beijing was very suitable for such a meeting, because both parties are members of the organization and they could have met in a "natural situation." China disagreed. Hsia made the remarks during a visit to Lai Cheng-chan (???), the legislative caucus whip of the minor opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union (???). (By Claudia Liu, Wen Kuei-hsiang and Lilian Wu)