(Beijing) Former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou on Thursday called for continued talks with Beijing during a historic visit to China, which the ruling party in Taipei called “regrettable.”

It is indeed the first trip in more than seven decades to mainland China by a former or current leader of Taiwan, an island which it considers part of its territory and which it wants one day to recover.

“People on both sides of the Strait belong to the same Chinese nation and are descendants of the Chinese people,” Ma said Thursday during a meeting with a Chinese official.

“The two sides of the Taiwan Strait should maintain exchanges, work together, do their utmost to avoid wars and conflicts, and strive to revitalize China,” the former Kuomintang party leader ( KMT), 72, who served as Taiwan’s president from 2008 to 2016.

He met with Song Tao, the head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, asking him to convey his regards to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

During Mr. Ma’s presidency, a dramatic improvement in relations between Beijing and Taipei had occurred. It culminated in a 2015 summit between him and Mr Xi in Singapore, when current Taiwanese President Tsai Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been much more reluctant to develop closer ties. with Beijing.

“We should be more united […], but it is unfortunate that the KMT is on the side of the Chinese communists and that ex-president Ma is ignoring the public disapproval ‘of such a visit to China’ in this moment,” the DPP commented in a statement on Monday.

The KMT and DPP candidates are the best placed for the presidential election to be held next year in Taiwan.

President Tsai arrived in New York on Wednesday as part of a 10-day tour of the United States and Central America.

China has in this regard promised to “retaliate” to a possible meeting between it and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy.

The move comes days after Honduras severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which is now recognized by only 13 states worldwide, and established ties with Beijing.