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Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 11:07 GMT
China 'ready' for Taiwan air link
China has said it may be prepared to allow charter flights to and from rival Taiwan early next year, according to a senior official.

Taiwanese mother holds her son's ears as they  watch a plane land at Taipei domestic airport (AP)
Travellers currently have to fly via a third place
He was speaking to the official Xinhua news agency after Taiwan said the two governments should discuss lifting the ban, which it imposed more than 50 years ago.

But Li Weiyi, the spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs office, stressed the flights could only take place if they were not described as being "country to country".

Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province and refuses any suggestion the island is a sovereign state.

"As long as the Taiwan administration accepts the one China principle, the two sides may resume contacts and talks," Mr Li said.

He also said any talks on direct links should be held at a non-government level, and should be economic, not political.

Business booming

On Thursday, Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian renewed his call for talks with China on lifting the ban.

"The two sides must sit down and talk if the problems regarding the 'three links' are to be solved," he said, referring to transport, trade and postal services.

But he also said Taiwan "should not be marginalised or relegated to a local government."

China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, and Taiwan cut the direct links for what it called security reasons. The two sides have no official diplomatic ties.

Business links have thrived, but the lack of direct travel means businesspeople have to travel via a third place, usually Hong Kong or Macau.

Earlier this month, Mr Chen said the ban on direct links could end "very soon" after China's Vice Premier, Qian Qichen, said the links could be referred to as cross-Strait rather than a "domestic issue".

See also:

29 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
10 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
26 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
07 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
30 Sep 02 | Country profiles
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