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Cross-strait charter flight deal inked

Saturday, Jun 14, 2008, Page 1

Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung, left, talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing after a deal was reached on cross-strait weekend charter flights and expanding Chinese tourism in Taiwan.



Negotiators from Taiwan and China yesterday signed agreements to begin regular weekend charter flights from July 4 and allow Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan starting from July 18.

The Taiwanese delegation later met Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.

Hu told Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) the agreements marked a “good start.”

“The resumption of talks signals a good start of the improvement and development of cross-strait relations,” China’s state media quoted Hu as saying.

Under the agreement signed by Chiang and Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) — in a ceremony broadcast on Chinese national television — weekend charter flight services will cover five Chinese cities and later be expanded to six more.

The first five are: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiamen and Nanjing. Later Chengdu, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Dalian, Guilin and Shenzhen will be added.

Eight destinations in Taiwan were listed: Taoyuan, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Taipei, Penghu, Hualien, Kinmen and Taitung.

The charter services will run from Friday to Monday, with each side operating 18 round-trip flights per week, or a total of 36 round-trip flights.

Taiwanese carriers cannot operate more than nine round-trip flights a week to Shanghai, while Chinese carriers are not allowed to offer more than six round-trips a week to Taichung, the pact said.

The two sides agreed they would negotiate as soon as possible on the air route and air traffic control procedures to allow the charters to fly “direct routes.”

Before more direct air routes are agreed upon, the charter flights will be required to detour through Hong Kong’s air space before heading to their destinations.

Negotiations on cross-strait cargo charter flights will be held within three months of the start of the weekend passenger services, the agreement said.

The pact calls for the first group of Chinese tourists to arrive on July 4, alongside the launch of the weekend charter flights, but Chinese will only be officially allowed to visit Taiwan on holiday as of July 18.

The agreement stated that ordinary Chinese must come and leave in groups and the daily ceiling on the entry of Chinese tourists will be 3,000 initially. That number will be adjusted in the second year based on market demand.

The two sides also agreed that each group of Chinese tourists should number between 10 and 40 and be allowed to stay a maximum of 10 days.

Taiwan opened its door for group tours by certain categories of Chinese in 2002, but ordinary Chinese were not allowed to holiday in Taiwan.

At a press conference after his meeting with Hu, Chiang told reporters he had raised the issue of Taiwan’s participation in international affairs.

“I told Hu ... that the two sides both belonged to the Chinese race and we should make positive contributions to the international community together,” he said. “The question of international space does not take second priority to the normalization of trade ties.”

Chiang said Hu told him that he agreed, and suggested that Taiwan and China should seek mutually acceptable solutions to the issue.

Hu had responded: “We understand Taiwan compatriots’ feelings on this issue,” Chiang told reporters.
The US on Thursday endorsed the cross-strait talks in Beijing and said it hopes they will resolve the bitterness that has infected relations for decades.

State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said: “Our understanding is that they had a good conversation, and we are hoping that they will continue.”

While Chinese and Taiwanese officials were all smiles yesterday after signing a landmark deal on flights however, in one area Taiwan was not happy — the controls on its normally freewheeling press corps.

China limited access to the media for much of the talks, aside from a few photo opportunities, though the Taiwanese delegation held regular news conferences at which all were welcome.



DPP demands that government comes clean on arms sales

REQUEST OR NOT?: The DPP believes the KMT government requested that Washington freeze arms sales so as not to jeopardize the Beijing talks

By Shih Hsiu-Chuan
Saturday, Jun 14, 2008, Page 3

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday demanded that the government explain whether it had urged the US to freeze arms sales to the country.

“We know from various sources in the US that the reason behind the suspension of arms sales to Taiwan was the KMT government,” DPP Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said.

Cheng said that the government should explain itself to the public if it had decided to give up the former DPP administration’s arms procurement policy.

The alleged KMT request has led to speculation that it was in connection with the resumption of cross-strait talks in Beijing this week, said Lin Chen-wei (林成蔚), director of the DPP’s Department of International Affairs.

National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi (蘇起) is rumored to have made a secret trip to Hong Kong to meet Chinese government officials and arrange the cross-strait talks.

“Su Chi should also give an account of whether he used making the request to the US as a condition to get China to agree to resume the talks during his trip to Hong Kong,” Lin said.

The DPP officials, however, refused to elaborate on what they knew about the communication between the government and the US on the postponement.

The allegations against the government came in the wake of a report in the latest edition of Defense News that the US has frozen arms sales to Taiwan until after the Beijing Olympics or until US President George W. Bush leaves office.

Other media outlets have reported that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley had frozen the deals.

The paper said that Taiwan had privately urged Bush not to send Congress the notifications for the approval of weapons sales to Taiwan in the coming weeks as it was negotiating with China on launching regular direct flights and expanding tourism.

Defense News said the sales would amount to some US$12 billion for the acquisition of 30 Apache Longbow attack helicopters, 60 Black Hawk helicopters, eight diesel-electric submarines, four PAC-3 air defense missile batteries and 66 F-16 fighter aircraft.

Executive Yuan Spokeswoman Vanessa Shih (史亞平) denied the allegations and said the government had not heard from the US that it was suspending arms sales.

“The Ministry of National Defense has good communications with the US and we hope the US approves the sales as soon as possible,” Shih said.




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