Taiwan, China agree to first direct air link since 1949

Agence France Presse

Macau, January 15:

Taiwan and China today agreed to set up their first direct flights since 1949 for next month’s Lunar New Year holidays, officials said. The charter flights will run from January 29 until February 20, head of the Chinese delegation and executive director of the China Civil Aviation Association, Pu Zhaozhou, said.

The agreement straddles the Lunar New Year, which starts on February 9, and ushers in the first direct cross Taiwan Strait flights since the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war. The 24 round-trip flights via Hong Kong airspace would connect the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou with Taipei and Kaosiung in Taiwan, Pu said. Taipei has banned direct transport exchanges across the Taiwan Strait since it split from China. China still considers the island part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary. Six Chinese and six Taiwanese airlines would conduct the flights although it has not been decided which ones, said delegate Chang Kuo-cheng, director of Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration. Taiwan’s top policy-maker on China also said he hoped to build on the agreeement. “Besides direct flights for the Chinese New Year, we hope to negotiate with China on charter cargo flights, investment and trade issues and crime-fighting,” said Joseph Wu, chairman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council. “We hope that confrontation between the two sides will become cooperation,” he told reporters in Taipei. During the New Year holidays in 2003, six Taiwanese airliners were allowed to fly to Shanghai to bring Taiwanese business people home via Hong Kong or Macau.