Taiwanese officials had a rare face-to-face meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping while attending an Asian economic forum last week.

Morris Chang, Taiwan’s envoy to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, said he had a “pleasant” interaction with the Chinese leader. Chang, the founder of Taiwanese chip giant TSMC, spoke about Friday’s meeting upon his return to Taipei on Monday, Reuters reported.

“Of course, the presidential office had told me that if there was an opportunity there was no need to avoid a meeting or greeting. That was the only instruction,” Chang said.

He added that he congratulated Xi on his re-election at the 20th Communist Party of China Congress, which cemented his authority.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping looks on as he attends a session during the G-20 summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali November 16, 2022.
(WILLY KURNIAWAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

China halted formal interactions with Taiwan after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was elected in 2016, but the annual APEC forum remained one of the few instances where the two governments interact, if only briefly, according to Reuters.

Taiwan seceded from mainland China in 1949 after democratic forces lost a civil war to the Communist Party of China and fled to the island. China has long pushed for reunification, and has threatened to do so with force. The Beijing government sees Tsai as a separatist seeking Taiwan independence.

The brief interaction at APEC comes after China held weeks of military operations around Taiwan in an apparent mock invasion.

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Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), left center, poses for photographs after receiving the Order of Propitious Clouds with Special Grand Cordon, Taiwan's highest civilian award, from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, center right, at the president's office.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), left center, poses for photographs after receiving the Order of Propitious Clouds with Special Grand Cordon, Taiwan’s highest civilian award, from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, center right, at the president’s office.
(Chien Chih-Hung/Office of the President via Getty Images)

China’s escalation came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island in early August. Her trip was amid a flurry of visits to the island by US lawmakers, outraging China.

Beijing claims the trips violate the US One China policy, which says the US recognizes Beijing as China’s sole government and will not maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, fighter jets of the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army conduct joint combat training exercises around Taiwan Island on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. China said on Monday it is extending menacing military exercises encircling Taiwan, which have disrupted sea and air traffic and have greatly raised concerns about potential conflict in a region crucial to global trade.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, fighter jets of the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army conduct joint combat training exercises around Taiwan Island on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. China said on Monday it is extending menacing military exercises encircling Taiwan, which have disrupted sea and air traffic and have greatly raised concerns about potential conflict in a region crucial to global trade.
(Gong Yulong/Xinhua via AP)

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The United States has adopted a policy of “strategic ambiguity” towards Taiwan. President Biden has said four times as president that the United States would intervene if China invaded the island, but White House officials rejected the statement each time.

Biden stressed that there was no change in US policy in his face-to-face meeting with Xi last week.

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