Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan, PRC pursue more direct route

TIME SAVER The defense ministry said planned air routes that would not go through Hong Kong or Macau’s air space would facilitate travel but not pose a security risk

STAFF WRITER, WITH AGENCIES

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) assured the public yesterday that the government’s plan to open straighter air routes across the Taiwan Strait would not undermine national security.

Ministry spokeswoman Lisa Chi (池玉蘭) said the ministry had contributed its professional assessment to the plan and suggested that the air routes should not involve any direct flights across the median line in the Taiwan Strait.

Based on this principle, the ministry has proposed several possible routes that would not put national security at risk, Chi said.

The ministry has worked out the necessary measures to deal with the possible impact of the new air routes on the military’s air training programs, she said.

While there are no regular passenger flights between Taiwan and China, the cross-strait weekend and holiday charter flights now in service are required to make a detour through Hong Kong or Macau’s air space, adding hours to flights between Taiwan and central and northern China.

On Monday, Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said that Taipei and Beijing had reached a high level of consensus on adopting more direct routes for the flights.

A formal agreement on the issue is likely to be signed during the upcoming talks between the Straits Exchange Foundation and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), that is scheduled later this month in Taipei, Mao said at the time.

The new routes, which will dispense with the detours through a third area, are expected to shorten the flying time between Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and Shanghai from 150 minutes to 67 minutes.

A more direct Taoyuan-Beijing flight would take two-and-a-half hours, 75 minutes less than the current time, and a Taoyuan-Xiamen flight would take one hour, 30 minutes less than it does now.

Mainland Affairs Council spokeswoman Corinna Wei (魏淑娟) said yesterday that officials were also negotiating new flight paths that could cut travel time.

“Our position is that we want to give travelers the most convenient routes possible,” Wei said.

The two sides are set to discuss passenger and cargo flights when ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) visits either late this month or early next month.

In related news, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) said yesterday that he would insist on parity and dignity if he meets the ARATS chairman.

“Chen Yunlin, the chairman of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, must address me as ‘premier’ if the meeting is to take place,” Liu said while fielding questions from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) during a question-and-answer session at the legislature.

“Arrangements will have to be made in advance, and I will not meet Chen if the two sides fail to reach an agreement on this matter,” Liu said.

“Reciprocality and dignity must be fully observed during the meeting with Chen,” he said.

The premier also said he would demand an apology from the Chinese government and companies over China’s toxic milk powder and other questionable dairy products sold to Taiwan, and promised to help the private sector seek compensation from the Chinese side.

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