Sat, Feb 26, 2005 - Page 1 News List

MAC chilly to Chinese flight offer

`SELECTIVE GOODWILL' Beijing said that it would consider cross-strait charter flights for select holidays, but Taiwanese officials weren't excited


Beijing's proposal to operate additional cross-strait chartered passenger flights during select holidays and to boost agricultural exchanges yesterday met with a lukewarm response in Taiwan.

"China's recent selective extension of goodwill is a means of advancing the passage of its `anti-secession bill,'" the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), the nation's top cross-strait policymaking body, said in an official statement yesterday in response to Beijing.

Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) raised the possibility of repeating the success of recently concluded Lunar New Year chartered flights for the first time yesterday, suggesting an exchange of opinions on operating similar flights on the upcoming Tomb Sweeping Day which falls on April 5 this year.

While chartered passenger flights have in the past been operated only during the Lunar New Year, the nation's biggest holiday, the TAO yesterday expressed its willingness to discuss the operation of such flights during other major holidays and even over normal weekends as well.

"We hope that charter flights can operate on a regular basis [on] all major holidays. Fixed passenger flights are expected to be run as soon as possible to link [Chinese] areas where businesspeople from major cities in Taiwan live in compact communities," TAO economic bureau deputy director Tang Yi (唐怡) was quoted as saying by Beijing's official Xinhua News Agency yesterday.

"We hope airlines [on] both sides of the Strait can reach consensus on the issue by referring to the experience of the [Lunar New Year] charter flights, so as to meet the demands of Taiwan compatriots," Tang said, adding that the flights should not be available only to Taiwanese businesspeople, as had been the case during the Lunar New Year holiday.

The Lunar New Year charter flights were made possible through negotiations between government-authorized business representative Michael Lo (樂大信), chairman of the Taipei Airlines Association, and Pu Zhaozhou (浦照洲), executive director of China's Civil Aviation Association in Macau last month.

The talks led to the first non-stop cross-strait flights in over 50 years.

MAC, however, seemed to have its eyes set on cargo flights instead. Since President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) publicly vowed to prioritize efforts towards realizing cross-strait cargo flights last Wednesday, the Council has continually indicated its willingness to actively pursue cooperation with China on the matter.

"The council regrets that China failed to make a concrete response regarding the economically advantageous cargo flights," Council Vice Chairman and Spokesman Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) said yesterday. While it had been anticipated that China would clarify it's stance on negotiations regarding cargo flights during yesterday's press conference, Beijing merely stated that it would "actively consider" the possibility.

"We have noticed [the] views of the Taiwan side about cargo charter flight service between the [China] and Taiwan," Xinhua quoted Tang saying.

"We give it active consideration and will have further discussions with Taiwan civil industrial groups," he said.

Chiu yesterday bought time for the council regarding a concrete decision as to China's proposal to operate charter flights in April, saying that the Council needed first to conduct an overall assessment of the Lunar New Year charter flights.

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