Lee Hsien Loong concludes Taiwan visit amid China's protest
Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong left Taipei for home Tuesday after a four-day visit that had aroused much complaint from China.

Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (C) walks out after having lunch with Taiwan Premier Yu Shyi-kun in Taipei. (AFP Photo)

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TAIPEI, July 13 (AP) -- Singapore's incoming leader wrapped up a visit to Taiwan on Tuesday that focused on trade relations -- not Taipei's tense relationship with rival China, officials here said Tuesday.

Lee Hsien Loong, slated to become the city-state's prime minister next month, arrived in Taiwan on Saturday and met top government and opposition officials.

Singapore described his visit as "private and unofficial," while Taiwanese official sources said the economy and trade were at the center of meetings with Lee, rather than the China issue.

Nevertheless, Beijing reacted angrily to Lee's visit, with its foreign ministry saying the unannounced trip "harms China's core interests."

China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, and Beijing has maintained the self-ruled island is Chinese territory, threatening war if the island moves toward permanent independence.

Singapore has for years engaged in a delicate balancing act over Taiwan, engaging an increasingly powerful China while at the same time maintaining close economic and military links with Taipei.

The city-state played host to the highest level meeting between Taiwan and China in 1993.

Taiwan's media have speculated that Lee might have brought a message from Beijing with him for President Chen Shui-bian because he met China's leaders in May, but Taiwanese officials have denied this.

On Monday, Lee had a one-hour closed-door meeting and a dinner with Chen. Lee also met with opposition leader Lien Chan, and was given a briefing on Taiwan's economic development, said Wang Jin-pyng, vice chairman of the opposition Nationalist Party.

The Singaporean politician also paid a courtesy call to Defense Minister Lee Jye, the ministry said. Taiwan offers military training to troops from the city state.

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