China's leader urges action on unification with Taiwan

Chinese President Xi Jinping, declaring that independence is not an option for Taiwan, urged both sides to reach an early consensus on unification and not leave the issue for future generations.

No one or no party can stop the trend toward unification, the Chinese leader said Wednesday in a policy speech devoted to Taiwan. He called independence for the self-governing island against history and a dead end.

"We are willing to create a vast space for peaceful unification, but we will never leave any room for any sort of Taiwan independence separatist activities," he said.

Taiwan and China split in a civil war that brought the Communist Party to power in China in 1949. The rival Nationalists set up their own government on the island about 160 kilometers (100 miles) off the Chinese mainland.

Xi proposed talks between the two sides to work out "a systematic arrangement for the peaceful development of the cross-strait relationship."

It's unclear how his message will be received by the 23 million people on the other side of the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen, said Tuesday that the Taiwanese want to retain their self-rule and autonomy. She has irked Beijing by refusing to endorse the "one China" principle that designates Taiwan as a part of China.

"Deviating from the one China principle will result in tension and turbulence in cross-strait relations, harming the interests of the Taiwanese compatriots," Xi said.

He pledged that unification would be under a one-country, two-system framework that would respect the Taiwanese social system and way of life and guarantee their property rights, religious beliefs and other rights.

"The political disputes that have existed for a long time ... affect the healthy and continuous development of the cross-strait relationship and cannot be passed from generation to generation," he said.

Xi warned against foreign interference in the issue, though he didn't mention the United States by name. People on both sides of the strait belong to the same family, he said, and family matters should be resolved by family members.