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Breakthrough in cross-Taiwan Strait review meeting (update)
Central News Agency
2014-02-21 11:06 PM
Changsha, China, Feb. 21 (CNA) Beijing has finally agreed to study the feasibility of allowing Chinese travelers to make transit stops in Taiwan after years of requests by Taipei, a Taiwanese negotiator said Friday, describing the decision as a breakthrough in cross-Taiwan Strait talks. Taiwan has been asking Beijing for many years to allow cross-strait layovers, but the two sides have never reached a consensus, nor has China ever previously touched on the issue, said Ma Shaw-chang, deputy secretary-general of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), after a meeting in the Chinese city of Changsha.

The meeting was held between the SEF and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS). During the two-day meeting, the Chinese side finally agreed that the long-standing request from Taiwan "makes sense" and expressed its willingness to begin studying the issue. It's "a very positive expression" from China, Ma said. He noted that Taiwan's government regards transit stops by Chinese travelers as "vitally important" to its project of building an aerotropolis in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan centered around the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. The issue concerning transit stops was one that Taiwan wanted to discuss during the Changsha meeting, which was aimed at reviewing the implementation and effects of the 19 pacts signed between Taiwan and China to date. Taiwanese carriers China Airlines and EVA Air both expressed hopes that a deal can be reached as soon as possible, saying that Taiwan will serve as a better transport hub once Chinese travelers can transit through Taiwan and then travel to other places. For example, it would be easier for residents in Xiamen, in southeastern China's Fujian province, to travel to the United States, Australia or New Zealand by transiting through Taiwan, instead of Beijing, which is farther away, the carriers said. Transiting through Taiwan can also ease the heavy traffic at the Beijing and Shanghai airports, they added. In addition, the deal can help create a strong transport demand for Taiwan and help the island to achieve its goal of becoming a transport hub and building an aerotropolis, further boosting the country's economic development, the carriers said. Other issues of particular interest to Taiwan were the volume of direct cross-strait flights, the pursuit and repatriation of wanted criminals, the types of businesses Taiwanese banking institutions are allowed to operate on the mainland, food safety, and arbitration channels for Taiwanese businesses involved in investment disputes in China. The SEF and ARATS are the two quasi-official intermediary bodies set up to handle cross-Taiwan Strait affairs in the absence of official ties. (By Elizabeth Hsu and James Lee)

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