Sun, Jan 07, 2001 - Page 1 News List

China seen warming to direct links

CROSS-STRAIT China's communications minister said yesterday that China is ready for cross-strait shipping and is waiting for Taiwan to lift its ban

STAFF WRITER , WITH REUTERS

China's Minister of Communica-tions Hong Shanxiang (洪善祥) yesterday said Beijing will define cross-strait shipping as "domestic routes under special management" after direct shipping is opened up between China and Taiwan.

Under this principle, cross-strait shipping routes would be reserved for Taiwanese and Chinese ships only after both sides have entered into the WTO, Hong added.

After China's begrudging acceptance of Taiwan's implementation of the "small three links" -- direct shipping, postal and communications links between its offshore islands of Kinmen and Matsu and China -- on Jan. 1, Hong's remarks are viewed as continued softening of Beijing's stance.

China had previously insisted that Taiwan accept the "one China" principle before talks on establishing full trade and transport links could begin.

Hong made the remarks when receiving two Taiwanese delegations consisting of legislators from the KMT and the New Party.

The message came one day after Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen (錢其琛) told the delegates that direct cross-strait trade, transport and postal links can be established as an "internal affair within one country."

Hong yesterday told the legislators that Taiwanese and Chinese ships sailing the cross-strait routes will have no need to fly national flags and international standards will not apply to the shipbuilding techniques, facilities and telecommunication devices of these ships.

Hong said China is fully ready to open up all harbors for direct cross-strait shipping and is waiting for Taiwan to lift its ban prohibiting Chinese ships from sailing to Taiwan.

The vice minister of China's Civil Aviation Administration, Bao Peide (包培德), meanwhile, said that a similar principle will be adopted for direct cross-strait flights.

Bao said direct cross-strait air links will be launched on the basis of mutual benefit and reciprocity with "one China," adding that the flights can begin as soon as Taiwan gives its approval.

Bao said airlines from both sides have made contact to discuss matters concerning routes and ticket prices and have reached an understanding on some of these issues.

In Taiwan, Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) responded, saying that the contact undertaken between airlines from both sides was unofficial.

Chen said the negotiation of aviation rights falls under the government's authority and the Straits Exchange Foundation is currently the only authorized body that can negotiate with China on behalf of the Taiwan government.

Chen called on China to restore official dialogue with Taiwan soon to facilitate negotiations on opening up direct cross-strait trade, transport and postal links.

Also yesterday, DPP Chairman and Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) proposed that Taiwan set up a special zone that allows the investment of Chinese capital before the links are opened up.

Hsieh said Taiwan could experiment with tax-free and around-the-clock customs services in a special zone to smooth out problems beforehand.

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