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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 January, 2005, 06:36 GMT
China makes Taiwan flights offer
Air China jets at Beijing airport
Travellers between China and Taiwan usually have to stop en route
China has asked Taiwan to accept its offer of direct flights between the island and the mainland during the Lunar New Year holiday in February.

China's proposal came after meetings with Taiwanese opposition politicians.

Taiwan has invested $100bn in China in recent years, but the countries' governments refuse to talk, and direct air links have been banned since 1949.

The Chinese proposal, branded a "one-off", would allow flights between Taipei and four cities on the mainland.

But China ruled out opening official talks with the government in Taipei to discuss permanent aviation links, branding the suggestion "inappropriate".

An official in China's Taiwan Affairs Office, He Shizhong, said he hoped Taiwan would agree to allow flights between Taipei and Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Xiamen.
We've had enough, let's have direct flights!
China Evening Times

"We hope to realise the direct charter flights in the coming Spring festival in order to meet the need of Taiwanese businessmen and Taiwan compatriots,", Mr He said.

"If Taiwan shows sincerity on the issue, it will not be a problem to realise direct flights this year."

Attempts to run direct flights have faltered in the past, notably in 2003, when charter planes were forced to divert to Hong Kong and Macau in order not to travel directly between China and Taiwan.

The plan needs the approval of Taiwan's President, Chen Shui-bian.

China's rulers prefer to deal with opposition politicians who do not support formal independence for the island of 23 million.

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