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China-Taiwan 1st direct flight soon

January 10, 2005 14:27 IST

China on Mo9nday asked arch-rival Taiwan to take "flexible measures" to launch the first direct chartered flights since 1949 during the Lunar New Year holiday season in February.

"If Taiwan can keep its words and is willing to take flexible measures, the mainland-Taiwan air links this year can be definitely attainable," Chen Yunlin, director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, China's cabinet, said.

Chen, who met with a six-member Taiwanese opposition party (Kuomintang) -- including John Chang, the grandson of Taiwan's late leader Chiang Kai-shek, said that Beijing welcomed Taiwan's efforts of sending a delegation in Beijing to discuss the charter flights issue ahead of the Chinese lunar New Year which falls on February 9.

China views Taiwan as a rebel province that needs to be reunified, even by force.

Chen indicated that Beijing wanted the direct chartered flights to start without transit stops in Hong Kong or Macao, both Special Administrative Regions of China. The transit stop had become an irritant to Taiwanese passengers, who had to spend some four hours instead of one hour for a direct flight between the mainland and Taiwan.

The air link between the two sides has been a long-standing issue, and it becomes particularly prominent during China's lunar new year, when many Taiwan residents choose to fly back to see their relatives on the island, and vice versa.
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