Sat, Jan 08, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Officials begin talks on New Year flights: report

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

Government-authorized aviation representatives yesterday met with Chinese officials in Macau to discuss the politically charged cross-strait charter flights for the coming Lunar New Year, according to a report in a Chinese-language newspaper.

The Taipei Airlines Association, the government's authorized representative in the matter, yesterday made a low-profile exit, taking extensive measures to keep their trip to Macau from the media. According to the China Times Express, Association chairman Lo Ta-hsin (樂大信) and Secretary General Solo Su (蘇賢榮) had departed on Thursday evening from Taipei's Sungshan domestic airport, taking the additional precaution of flying first to Kaohsiung before taking off for Macau.

The association representatives met yesterday with Pu Zhaozhou (浦照洲), an official of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in charge of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau affairs (浦照洲), according to the report.

Both Lo and Su left after having assured the media they were still in Taipei and that they were uncertain as to when they would negotiate charter flights with China. As of press time yesterday, neither could be reached for comment.

The Central News Agency, however, last night reported that according to an unnamed Chinese Civil Aviation Administration official, Pu had not departed for Macau, and that he was working in Beijing. He said Pu was prepared only to meet with a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) delegation from Taiwan and some business representatives on Monday.

The top Chinese official in charge of Taiwan affairs is also slated to meet the KMT delegation on Monday to exchange views on the launch of direct cross-strait charter flights, the report added.

Meanwhile, the government has made the words "no comment" its latest mantra, refraining from discussing cross-strait flights in detail. Asked whether he had any information on the progress of negotiations in Macau, Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) refrained even from confirming that Lo and Su were in Macau.

"I haven't been able to reach them. Their cellular phones are turned off," Chiu said, denying knowledge of when Lo and Su would return as well.

Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) took a similar stance, telling reporters that "the details cannot be made public, but we're working toward a positive result."

He did say that Taiwan would be willing to allow flights that made "virtual stopovers" in Hong Kong, or another third destination. While the government had been calling for direct, reciprocal flights, Wu raised the possibility of flights entering the airspace of a third nation without making a transit stop before proceeding to Taiwan.

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