'No arrangement' to meet Xi, senior Taiwan opposition leader says as he leaves for China visit

TAOYUAN, Taiwan, Feb 8 (Reuters) - There is "no arrangement" for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the deputy chairman of Taiwan's main opposition party the Kuomintang (KMT) said on Wednesday before leaving for Beijing, but added he would follow whatever his hosts set up.

Andrew Hsia, a former senior Taiwanese diplomat and one-time head of its China-policy-making Mainland Affairs Council, is going to Beijing at a time of heightened tension, as China steps up military pressure to assert its sovereignty claims over Taiwan.

Speaking at Taiwan's main international airport in Taoyuan, Hsia told reporters that he would be meeting Song Tao, the newly appointed head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office.

"As for Xi Jinping, there is no such arrangement," he said. "In the document submitted to the Mainland Affairs Council (I said I would) meet Taiwan Affairs Office Director Song Tao. As for other people, our attitude has always been that as guests we are at our hosts' disposal, and if they make arrangements, we will not exclude them."

Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has seized on the trip to attack the KMT for being too close to Beijing and wanting to sell out Taiwan, and has criticised Hsia for going to "pay court to the communists".

The KMT traditionally favours close ties with China, but strongly denies being pro-Beijing.

Hsia said he was going because it was important to talk to China and he was "not going to do anything political".

"We will follow our own pace, and only the interests of the Republic of China, of Taiwan, are in our minds," he added, using Taiwan's formal name.

Hsia last visited China in August shortly after Beijing staged war games near Taiwan to express its anger at a visit to Taipei by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, prompting a storm of criticism from Taiwan's government and even his own party for the timing of the trip.

China has not spoken with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's administration since she took office in 2016, believing she is a separatist, and has rebuffed frequent calls from Tsai for dialogue to resume.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.