Taiwan wants to expand air links with China

Taiwan wants to expand air links with China

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, hoping to court businessmen ahead of a tough election in March, unveiled modest measures on Friday to expand shipping and air cargo links with rival China.

But without the cooperation of Beijing, which views Chen as a troublemaker trying to permanently split Taiwan from China, the business community was left still waiting for breakthrough reforms, like direct passenger flights across the Taiwan Strait.

Chen, facing a difficult re-election battle on March 20, was quoted by Reuters as saying he aimed to open two-way air freight links across the Strait, expanding upon an earlier plan that allowed only Taiwan carriers and not Chinese airlines to explore cargo flights.

The chartered planes would still have to stop briefly in either Hong Kong or Macau, for national security reasons.

Chen said last year he wanted to open direct air passenger and cargo links by the end of 2004 to strengthen trade ties, but many businessmen were skeptical that could be achieved given China's refusal to deal directly with the Chen administration.