Seoul looking to re-launch direct flights to Taiwan

AP , SEOUL

Wed, Jan 03, 2001 - Page 2

A resumption of air links between Taiwan and South Korea by their flagship airlines will be one of Seoul's top diplomatic priorities this year, South Korea's foreign minister said yesterday.

South Korea switched its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1992. Saying it was slighted by the move, Taiwan cut off all ties with Seoul, including air links.

"Resuming flights to Taiwan by our airlines will be a major diplomatic mission that should be resolved this year," Foreign Minister Lee Joung-binn said.

Efforts to reopen air services by their flagship carriers so far have made little progress because of Taiwan's insistence that the two governments get involved in negotiations. Seoul has worried that official talks would provoke anger in Beijing and prefers the issue be handled through private channels.

The number of travelers between the two nations has dropped from 400,000 in 1991 to 180,000 last year.