BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping called on Taiwan's business community on Tuesday to shun any idea of independence for their island and to promote peace and stable ties with the mainland, state media reported.
Ties between Beijing and self-ruled Taiwan have been frosty since the independence-leaning Diplomatic Progressive Party (DPP) won a Taiwan election in 2016, defeating the nationalist Kuomintang party.
Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Chinese control.
"Friends in the island's business community should take a stand and firmly maintain the '1992 consensus', oppose 'Taiwan independence' and firmly promote the peace and stability of cross-straits relations," Xi told the chairman of a foundation that promotes trade between China and Taiwan.
The "1992 consensus" refers to an agreement reached that year that both sides are part of "one China", a cherished principle in Beijing.
Xi made the remarks to Vincent Siew, a former vice-president of Taiwan when it was under Kuomintang rule and head of the Taiwan-based Cross-Straits Common Market Foundation, on the sidelines of the Chinese Boao Forum for Asia on Hainan island.
"The Taiwan problem is of great concern for the basic interests of the Chinese nation," Xi told Siew, according to a report of their talk from the official People's Daily newspaper.
"We hope that compatriots across the straights can together shoulder the virtuous cause of the nation and push for the peaceful reunification of the motherland."
Xi said in a speech to China's annual meeting of parliament in March that Taiwan would face the "punishment of history" for any attempts at separatism, his strongest on the issue warning yet.
'RESPECT THE CHOICE'
China fears DPP leader Tsai Ing-wen wants will push for formal independence, though Tsai says she wants to maintain the status quo and is committed to peace.
Taiwan's China policy-making Mainland Affairs Council, responding to Xi's latest comments, urged Beijing to abandon its requirement for Taiwan to accept a "one-sided political position" before engaging in exchanges and talks.
"Respect the choice of the Taiwanese people regarding relations across the straits and the future of Taiwan, do not adopt threatening measures again when handling cross-straits relations," the office said in a statement.
Overtures by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump towards strengthening ties with the island have ratcheted up the tension.
China repeatedly says that the U.S. acceptance that Taiwan and China are one country is the political bedrock for healthy ties between them.
China opposes any semblance of formal military or diplomatic ties between the United States and Taiwan.
China said on Monday it opposed the United States selling weapons to Taiwan, after the Trump administration approved the marketing licence required for U.S. manufacturers to sell technology to Taiwan that would allow for building submarines.
(Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Robert Birsel)