updated 11/5/2008 11:29:19 PM ET 2008-11-06T04:29:19

As rowdy protesters gathered in the streets, Taiwan's leader met with the highest-ranking Communist Chinese official to ever visit the island and declared Thursday that his trip was a success but that major challenges exist.

The brief meeting happened five hours earlier than planned to avoid massive anti-China demonstrations, like the one that marred a dinner Wednesday night for the Chinese envoy, Chen Yunlin. Hundreds of protesters surrounded the banquet venue and blocked Chen from leaving until well past midnight.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou met Chen at a government guesthouse. Outside the venue, hundreds of riot police used metal barriers with barbed wire to close off streets around the building where protesters blew air horns and scuffled with the officers.

Ma praised a landmark agreement signed by the rivals on Tuesday. The deal increases aviation and shipping links. It also included measures for better cooperation with food safety issues. The two sides decided to hold high-level talks every six months and tackle financial issues in the next meeting.

But Ma added, "There still exist disputes and challenges, especially regarding Taiwan's security and international status."

The two sides split when the Communists won a bloody civil war and took over the mainland in 1949. Beijing doesn't formally recognize Taiwan's government and insists the island must unify eventually. China has repeatedly threatened to use its massive military to force the Taiwanese to rejoin the mainland.

There has been much speculation about whether Chen would address Ma by his formal title, "president." But Chen didn't use the term, sticking with Beijing's policy of not treating Taiwan like it's an independent country.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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