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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 July 2006, 21:37 GMT 22:37 UK
Taiwan-China cargo flight lands
China Airlines plane (archive picture)
Some non-stop passenger flights operate during Lunar New Year
The first direct cargo flight for 57 years between Taiwan and mainland China has landed in Shanghai.

Until now all cargo flights have been required to pass through a third point such as Hong Kong or Macau - adding time and expense to the trip.

Direct air links between the two rivals were stopped in 1949, when nationalist forces fled from the mainland to Taiwan after losing China's civil war.

Limited non-stop passenger flights already operate during Lunar New Year.

Tense relations

A plane belonging to Taiwan's largest carrier, China Airlines, was given a grand official send-off before it departed from Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek airport at 2210 local time (1410 GMT).

It touched down in Shanghai at 0033 on Thursday (1633 GMT), China's Xinhua news agency reported.

The plane was carrying a shipment of microchip equipment to a factory established on the mainland by a Taiwanese company.

Four more cargo flights are expected to make the trip across the Taiwan Straits in the coming weeks.

Taiwan is an important international investor in China, and correspondents say the relaxation of the direct flight ban has been driven by the island's powerful business community.

But relations between Beijing and Taipei continue to be fraught. China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has threatened to invade the island if it declares independence.

China is particularly hesitant to deal with Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, who is traditionally seen as pro-independence.

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