Chinese President Hu Jintao is calling for closer economic and cultural relations with Taiwan to maintain peace in the region, and to curb what he calls the island's "secessionist activities."

China's official Xinhua news agency says Mr. Hu made the comments Saturday in Beijing at a forum on China and Taiwan business ties.

Xinhua says that during the forum, the Chinese leader met with the honorary chairman of Taiwan's main opposition party, Lien Chan.

About 500 participants are attending the two-day event. They are expected to discuss issues including direct flights from Taiwan to the mainland.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 following a civil war. But Beijing still considers the island as part of its territory and has threatened to use force if necessary to reunite the two sides.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.