Taiwan, China to launch sea, air links

December 14th, 2008 - 5:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Taipei, Dec 14 (DPA) Taiwan and China, enemies since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, will launch direct sea links, postal links and daily charter flights Monday.Both sides made final preparations for launching the links Sunday with Taiwan issuing a stamp showing two doves carrying a letter across the Taiwan Strait - to mark the launch of direct postal service - while China was loading container ships to sail directly to Taiwan.

According to the United Evening News (UEN), President Ma Ying-jeou who preside over the ceremony for sea links at the Kaohsiung harbour in south Taiwan for the Evergreen Marine.

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan would attend a joint direct shipping ceremony for four shipping lines at the Keelung Harbour near Taipei, the evening paper said.

On Monday in China, vice premier Wang Qishan will preside over COSCO Shipping’s direct shipping launch ceremony at the Tianjin Port, to see off a container ship sailing directly to Kaohsiung.

Lien Chan, honorary chairman of Taiwan’s ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), has been invited to attend the ceremony at the Tianjin Port.

KMT vice chairman John Chiang will attend the direct sea link launch ceremony at the Shanghai Port, the UEN said.

A total of 16 charter flights will cross the Taiwan Strait Monday, A TransAsia Airways plane, carrying 148 passengers, will take off from Taipei for Shanghai at 8 am Monday, becoming the first Taiwan flight bound for China.

From China’s side, a Shenzhen Airlines flight is scheduled to land at the Sungshan Airport in Taipei at 9 a.m., becoming the first Chinese aircraft to operate the daily charter flights.

Taiwan banned direct sea, air and trade links with China since 1949, after the Chinese Nationalists lost the Chinese Civil War and fled to Taiwan to set up their government-in-exile.

Public opinion polls have shown that about 80 percent of Taiwanese want to keep the status quo, rejecting both immediate unification with China and declaration of independence which would trigger an attack from Beijing.

The six-decade ban on trade links has severely hurt Taiwan’s economy. The damage is increasing as China becomes the locomotive of the world’s economy and foreign countries are stepping over Taiwan to deal directly with China.

Ma unveiled peace overtures when he became president May 20, launching weekend charter flights on July 4 so that Chinese tour groups could visit Taiwan.

The opening of direct sea links and charter flights will cut the time and cost of shipping and passenger travel by up to one-third.

Ma, while seeking economic cooperation and trust-building with China, insists Taiwan is a sovereign state whose future must be decided by the Taiwan people.

In an editorial Sunday, the United Evening News hailed the new opening as a page in China’s history which took 59 years to turn.

“There is a basket of problems to solve. But for the time being, let’s drop political dogmas and learn to put charcoal on a muddy road, so that people can walk on this road.”

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