China and Taiwan have signed landmark deals that will dramatically increase transportation links between the two. The agreements were signed in Taiwan during the highest-level visit by a Chinese official in 60 years. Thibault Worth reports from Taipei.
Among other things, the agreements triple the number of direct weekly charter flights between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan to 108. In addition, cargo flights will be allowed for the first time and seaports will be open for direct cargo shipments. Both sides also agreed to establish a safety alert system in case of tainted food imports.
P.K. Chiang is chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation. He signed the agreements with Chen Yunlin, the chairman of China's Association of Relations Across the Taiwan Strait.
Chiang says this is a big development in direct transportation links across the strait and an important milestone in the normalization of commerce on both sides.
Relations between mainland China and Taiwan have been warming since the election of Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou in March.
Mr. Ma won on a platform of economic revitalization, largely based on closer economic ties with the mainland. But many Taiwanese are uncomfortable with his policies because China claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island, and says they must eventually unite, by force if necessary.
Recent tainted milk imports from China have further deepened the distrust of many Taiwanese.
So far on his visit Chen has been careful to steer clear of politics.
Chen says this is the first time since the establishment of the two associations that they have held a meeting between the two leaders in Taipei. He goes on to say that the meeting shows the relationship continues to improve and develop.
There have been several protests around Taiwan against Chen's meeting. Many Taiwan residents favor declaring independence from China, something that Beijing has warned would bring an armed response.
The two sides agreed to hold talks every six months and to focus on building closer financial ties during the next round of meetings.