Fri, May 09, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Ma camp wavers on July flights

SKY’S THE LIMITThe US said it is interested in its airlines servicing the cross-strait route, but Taipei says that it might be a while before foreign airlines are allowed in

By Mo Yan-Chih and Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTERS, WITH DPA

President-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) never made any announcements on the date cross-strait weekend charter flights would commence, nor did he promise to implement cross-strait weekend charter flights by July 4, Ma spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) said yesterday.

Lo was speaking in response to Straits Exchange Foundation chairman-designate Chiang Pin-kung’s (江丙坤) comments yesterday that the new administration would most likely fail to stick to its pledge on weekend flights.

Chiang, a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) vice chairman, said the party had never set a specific date and that it was rather a think tank affiliated with the KMT that had come up with the July 4 date.

“Cross-strait flights will require much negotiation on both sides. It would be too hasty to set a date,” he said.

He said that many technical issues were involved in opening up regular cross-strait flights, including visas, flight routes and airspace control.

“The issue is not as simple as having the planes fly back and forth,” he said.

“Media coverage on the start date for cross-strait charter flights was merely speculation. It’s overhasty to speculate on cross-strait relations before the new administration assumes office,” Lo said outside KMT headquarters.

The timetable was first proposed by the KMT-affiliated National Policy Foundation’s Sustainable Development Division during a meeting on April 3, where division convener George Chen (陳世圯) said Ma had approved the timetable.

The division also gave a presentation on the timetable during a KMT Central Standing Committee meeting on April 22. KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) had vowed that the KMT would spare no effort in helping Ma carry out his cross-strait platform.

Asked to comment on the timetable, Ma said he had promised to open weekend charter flights in July and that July 4 was chosen because it was the first Friday of the month, adding that charter flights would not begin on weekdays.

Wu brushed off concerns that Ma would fail to carry out his cross-strait policy, calling on the public not to overstate the issue.

“We all want to carry out the policy according to the timetable, but a delay of a few days is no big deal,” Wu said yesterday after attending an event in Taipei.

Vice president-elect Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), who also attended the event, declined to comment.

However, Chiang said later yesterday he would still do his best to make weekend cross-strait charter flights on July 4 possible after he assumes the SEF chairmanship. He said he believed China would also cooperate with the foundation on this, as it would benefit both sides.

In related news, the US said it hoped US airlines would be allowed to offer flights between Taiwan and China once direct links are established. Taipei has said foreign airlines would be excluded in the initial stage.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, made the request to Taiwanese trade representative Liang Kuo-hsin (梁國新), hoping that when Taiwan opens direct air links with China, US airlines would be allowed to fly across the Taiwan Strait, the Chinese-language Commercial Times said.

In his response, Liang allegedly told Hammond-Chambers that the participation of foreign airlines was unlikely in the initial stages.

The US is the first country to have shown interest in the route.

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