Taiwan to start regular flights with China

February 6th, 2009 - 10:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Taipei, Feb 6 (DPA) Taiwan plans to launch regular flights to China in the first half of 2009, an official said Friday.Lee Wen-lung, director of the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), told Broadcasting Corp of China that “authorities” have instructed CAA to achieve normalization of air flights across the Taiwan Strait before summer.

“Although the two sides have not opened talks, all the preparations have been made,” the radio quoted Lee as saying.

Taiwan launched holiday charter flights with China in 2003, turned them into weekend charter flights July 4, 2008, and expanded them into daily charter flights Dec 15, 2008.

President Ma Ying-jeou, from the China-friendly Chinese Nationalist Party, has instructed agencies concerned to launch regular flights with China to ease tension and to allow Chinese tourists to visit the island.

In related news, Taiwan Friday allowed the Star Cruise line to launch Taiwan-China cruise service, according to the Central News Agency (CNA).

According to CNA, the Transport Ministry has approved Star Cruise’s application to launch Keelung-Xiamen regular service starting in the first half of 2009. The certificate, issued on a case-by-case basis, is valid for one year.

However, as the Taiwan-China agreement on sea links allows only Taiwanese and Chinese ships to join the direct sea links launched Dec 15, 2008, Star Cruise still has to seek approval from Beijing for its Keelung-Xiamen service, CNA said.

If Star Cruise launches Taiwan-China service, it will become the first foreign cruise line to offer cruise service across the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan banned sea, air and postal links with China at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, when the Republic of China government lost the war and fled to Taiwan to set up its government-in-exile.

In recent years, as tensions began to thaw, Taiwan has relaxed the restrictions and decided to fully drop the bans, after Ma took office May 20, 2008 and pledged to seek reconciliation with China.

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