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Taiwan lacks sincerity over flight plan
( 2003-11-25 22:30) (China Daily)

Beijing yesterday refused Taipei's demand for two semi-official organizations from both sides to handle the plan for cross-Straits charter flights during next year's Lunar New Year period.

Pu Zhaozhou, director of the Department of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao Affairs under the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC), accused the island of lacking sincerity over the charter flight scheme.

"The Taiwan authorities are deliberately doing something impossible with a view to setting more hurdles to the plan,'' he told China Daily in an exclusive interview.

"We will certainly not accept their idea.''

The senior official made the comments after Taiwan's "Mainland Affairs Council'' (MAC) announced last week that the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) will be entrusted to negotiate details about the charter flight programme with its mainland counterpart.

The SEF and the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) on the mainland are two semi-official bodies handling cross-Straits ties due to the absence of official links between the mainland and Taiwan Province.

The SEF-ARATS talks were broken off after former Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui introduced his notorious "two states'' theory on July 9, 1999, which defines cross-Straits relations as state-to-state relationship.

Beijing insists that the negotiation between the ARATS and SEF will not be resumed unless Taipei embraces the one-China principle that both the mainland and the island are part of China.

Pu reiterated the mainland's long-standing position that implementation details of the charter flight plan for the 2004 Lunar New Year holiday should be worked out through talks between non-government organizations.

As the mainland model for private talks was proven feasible and successful by last year's landmark charter flight plan, "this year's talks should also be conducted in the form of industry-to-industry consultation between airline associations or airlines from across the Straits,'' he stressed.

Pu also disclosed that there had so far been no formal talks between airline associations from both sides.

The CAAC official demanded the proposed charter flight for 2004 Lunar New Year should be direct, with no stopovers in a third location, and mainland airlines should be allowed to participate in the scheme.

But, in a strategy similar to that pursued last year, Taipei, however, has been continuing to push for indirect charter flights via a third location and unilateral participation only for Taiwanese airlines.

Observers say the disagreements between Beijing and Taipei may threaten to dash the hopes for this year's charter flight plan as there will be little time for much discussion before the Lunar New Year falls in late January.

Six Taiwanese airlines ran a total of 16 cross-Straits indirect charter flights between Taipei, Kaohsiung and Shanghai, transporting some 1,400 Taiwanese business people to and from the mainland for family reunions during the traditional Spring Festival holidays in early 2003.

It was the first time since 1949 that Taiwanese civilian airliners flew to the Chinese mainland.

As many as one million Taiwanese business people and their families live and work on the mainland and 300,000 of them are estimated to return to the island for the Lunar New Year.

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