Sat, Sep 17, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Government denies any breakthrough in direct links to China

AGENCIES , TAIPEI

The government denied yesterday's newspaper report that it was close to reaching a breakthrough agreement with China on direct charter air links, saying industry representatives on the two sides had not even met to talk.

The United Daily News newspaper said that the two sides had reached a consensus on launching direct cargo and passenger charter flights, which would be a major step in normalizing relations.

Taipei has banned direct air links with China since 1949.

The United Daily News had said that an announcement could be made around the Mid-Autumn Festival this weekend, with direct cargo charters to be launched first, followed by passenger charters three months later.

The paper did not identify its sources.

Vice MAC chairman You Yin-lung (游盈隆) told a press conference yesterday that the information reported in the newspaper was all invented and groundless.

"In fact, there is no such progress in the negotiations since Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) announced that we would like to conduct charter flights across the Strait in the middle of July," he said.

"It is the Chinese side that should be blamed for this," You added.

You also urged the Chinese side to act more positively to step up the negotiations.

Despite worries that air links could compromise Taiwan's security, President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) government has been under pressure from businessmen to launch direct flights in order to help them save costs and travel time.

China has threatened to attack Taiwan if it pushes for formal independence.

Despite often tense political relations, Taiwan's companies are estimated to have invested over US$100 billion in China since the 1980s.

Currently, most travellers across the Taiwan Strait fly through Hong Kong or Macau.

Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan

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