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China, Taiwan Prepare for Direct Flights

China says 3,000 Chinese tourists a day will be allowed to travel to Taiwan, a long-estranged island Beijing considers part of Chinese territory. The visits will be possible once the two sides implement regular, direct flights, weekend, next month. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

China and Taiwan have been rivals for decades - ever since the Chinese Nationalists fled to the island after losing a civil war to the Communists in 1949.

In recent years, China has threatened to use force, if necessary, to prevent Taiwan from declaring independence.

Following the March election of a Taiwanese president Beijing perceives as less independence-minded than his predecessor, cross-Straits relations improved quickly.

One concrete indication of better ties is an agreement both sides, signed earlier this month, for regular direct, flights between five mainland Chinese cities and Taiwan. The weekend flights start July 4.

The Chinese government's Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman, Fan Liqing, says there will be ceremonies to mark the first time in modern history mainland Chinese tour groups visit the island.

She says such ceremonies will be held in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Xiamen, which have all hosted cross-Straits flights before, during major Chinese holidays. In Nanjing, there also will be ceremonies marking the first time ever for that city to host direct flights to Taiwan.

Meanwhile, other improvements in bilateral relations include the return of China's main state-run news agency, Xinhua, to Taiwan, after a three-year hiatus. Under the new agreement, Xinhua reporters can stay on the island for three months, not just one month, as had been the case, previously.

The Chinese spokeswoman also discussed the status of two pandas China has offered to Taiwan as a goodwill gesture.

Fan says Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan were transferred to a different area of China's main panda breeding center, following a massive earthquake that struck nearby.

She says they have adapted to their new environment and are in good condition.

She says the two pandas can be delivered to the island in November or December.