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Last Updated: Monday, 10 January, 2005, 07:18 GMT
China 'ready for Taiwan flights'
By Louisa Lim
BBC, Beijing

Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian during National Day celebrations
China fears Chen Shui-bian wants Taiwan's independence

A delegation of Taiwanese opposition legislators says China has agreed to the first direct charter flights between Taiwan and the mainland.

The six legislators, from Taiwan's Kuomintang party, are in Beijing to try to thrash out a deal on direct flights.

They want planes to fly between the mainland and Taiwan over the busy Chinese New Year period, without first stopping in Hong Kong.

If they go ahead, these would be the first such links in more than 50 years.

After meeting a Chinese official, the Taiwanese legislators announced that an agreement had been reached.

But the deal now must be approved by the Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party.

China refuses to talk directly to the Taiwanese government, a point it emphasised during these talks.

Experts say that even if the direct flights go ahead, tensions between the two sides are unlikely to lessen.

But the move is an indication that - despite the political stalemate - trade ties are expanding, with more than half a million Taiwanese businessmen estimated to be living in China.

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