Chinese passenger layovers in Taiwan a step closer: SEF

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Fri, Feb 28, 2014 - Page 3

Both sides of the Taiwan Strait agreed to hold further talks on the possibility of layovers for Chinese passengers in Taiwan, Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) officials announced yesterday.

Foundation President Lin Join-sane (林中森) met with China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) Chairman Chen Deming (陳德銘) yesterday at the Grand Victoria Hotel for the 10th round of high-level talks between the two organizations.

The organizations agreed to share the responsibility for further negotiations, SEF Vice Chairman Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) said during a media briefing after Lin and Chen had concluded their meeting.

“Allowing Chinese travelers to make layovers in Taiwan would help the development of the cross-strait aviation industry,” Chang said.

At present, Taiwanese can make transit stops in China en route to other countries, but China has banned its nationals from doing so in Taiwan.

Taipei has been asking Beijing for many years to allow its people to make stopovers in Taiwan, but a consensus between the SEF and the ARATS was never reached. Beijing had not touched on the issue until Chang and his ARATS counterpart met earlier this month in China.

Taiwan also accepted a Chinese proposal to explore new cross-strait routes and shorten travel times to meet increasing demand between the two sides, Chang said.

However, he said the examination of that issue does not mean Taiwan will allow planes to directly cross the median line of the Taiwan Strait.

At the moment, direct flights between Taiwan and China must be routed over the East China Sea or South China Sea rather than directly across the Strait, because of national security concerns, which adds significant time to cross-strait flights.

The median line concerns national security and “there was currently no room for negotiation,” Chang said, adding that this had been fully communicated to ARATS members.

The matter of increasing flights “would not, and could never be, tied in with Chinese tourist layovers in Taiwan,” Chang added, to say that the two matters were entirely separate.