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China, Taiwan agree to allow direct flights



Published: Sat, January 15, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



MACAU (AP) -- China and Taiwan agreed Saturday to allow the first direct flights between the rivals in five decades -- a major breakthrough that could help reduce tensions in one of Asia's most dangerous potential flashpoints.

The agreement allows a total of 48 round-trip charter flights to carry Taiwanese working in China home and back during the Chinese New Year holiday next month, Chinese negotiator Pu Zhaozhou said.

Taiwan has banned the direct flights since the Communists won a bloody civil war in 1949 and took over the mainland. The self-ruled, democratic island has prohibited the flights because of security concerns with China, which has repeatedly threatened to use force to unify the two sides.

Taiwanese political analyst Lo Chih-cheng hailed the agreement as an important step in thawing tensions.

"This is the beginning of building mutual trust," said Lo, director of the Institute for National Policy Research in Taiwan's capital, Taipei.

China and Taiwan reached an agreement just two hours into their meeting in the Chinese territory of Macau, near Hong Kong.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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