Cross-Straits talks begin next month

By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-05-30 07:42

The mainland and Taiwan will hold talks next month, paving the way for regular weekend charter flights and tourism.

The mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) - the main channel for talks with the island - Thursday proposed a meeting with its Taiwan counterpart, the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), which said it accepted the proposal "with willingness".

It is the latest sign of rapidly warming relations across the Straits following a high-level meeting between the two sides on Wednesday.

The ARATS invited Chiang Pin-kun, the newly-elected SEF chairman, and Kao Koong-lian, vice-chairman and secretary-general, to lead a delegation to Beijing from June 11 to 14 for talks on cross-Straits weekend chartered flights and mainland tourists' travel to Taiwan.

"We hope the talks will make progress on the two issues and meet the expectations of people from both sides of the Taiwan Straits," the letter said.

Chiang told a press conference in Taipei Thursday that he would write a letter to the ARATS soon, expressing his keenness to attend the talks, local media reported.

The two organizations have had fruitful talks since 1991, including reaching the "1992 Consensus" in November that year, and arrived at a four-point consensus involving cross-Straits dialogue on political matters in October 1998.

However, talks between the two bodies had to be put off indefinitely after former Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui made his notorious "two states" remarks in July 1999 to define cross-Straits ties as a state-to-state relationship.

"Negotiations between the two sides have stopped for quite a long time," Chiang said, adding that the June talks should lead to more high-level discussions.

The two issues on the agenda have been discussed by related trade organizations many times and some consensus has been reached, Chiang said.

"I hope the two sides complete negotiations sincerely and quickly to enable cross-Straits weekend charter flights and mainland tourists to visit Taiwan soon," he said.

Chiang also said that "the two sides could sign an agreement on related issues on June 13".

Ma Ying-jeou of KMT, who was recently sworn in as the island's leader, has proposed starting regular direct charter flights across the Straits as early as July, and letting as many as 3,000 mainland tourists visit the island daily.

Currently, chartered flights are used only during holidays. Otherwise, mainland-bound passengers from Taiwan must change planes in Hong Kong or Macao - a source of great inconvenience and expense.

The announcement of resumption of talks comes a day after Communist Party of China (CPC) and Kuomintang leaders held talks Wednesday in Beijing and proposed restarting institutionalized cross-Straits talks as soon as possible.

Priority should be given to cross-Straits weekend charter flights and approval for mainland residents traveling to Taiwan, Hu Jintao, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said during a meeting with Kuomintang Party Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung.

Top China News  
Today's Top News  
Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours