Taiwan president pays last respects to Singapore's Lee, China shrugs off

Tue Mar 24, 2015 10:23am EDT
 
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By Faith Hung and and Lee Rou Urn

TAIPEI/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou flew to Singapore on Tuesday to pay his respects after the death of the city-state's first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, a diplomatically sensitive visit given China's stance that Taiwan is a renegade province.

Ma visited the Istana, the site of the Singapore prime minister's official residence and where Lee's family is holding a private wake, shortly after 5 p.m. (0800 GMT).

"Ma wanted to express his condolences to Lee's family face-to-face," Mao Chi-kuo, the Taiwanese premier told parliament.

Ma is unlikely to attend Sunday's invitation-only state funeral for Lee to avoid an awkward encounter with China's representatives, given the likelihood of a top Chinese leader attending.

China, which maintains a close relationship with Singapore, holds that there is only "One China" and Taiwan is part of it.

Singapore's foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment on Ma's visit.

China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that Lee always upheld a "One China" policy while he was alive and also did a lot of work to improve cross strait relations, which China appreciates.

"We believe that the Singapore side will act in accordance with the 'One China' principle to carefully and appropriately deal with the relevant issue related to Taiwan," Hua said at a daily news briefing.   Continued...

 
Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou (L) walks before boarding a plane to Singapore at Taoyuan airport, northern Taiwan March 24, 2015. REUTERS/CN Chen