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China Urges Taiwan to End Trade and Shipping Links Ban

China says the crash of a China Airlines jet highlights the urgent need for direct links across the Taiwan Strait. China is calling on Taiwan to end its five-decade ban on trade and shipping links with the mainland.

The official China Daily newspaper says Taiwan should be blamed for not moving sooner to allow direct air, shipping and postal links across the strait.

The report says that since air trips directly between Taiwan and the mainland would be shorter, they would be safer than current routes, which force Taiwan residents to stop in Hong Kong or Macau. Taiwan bans direct transport links with mainland China.

The paper says Saturday's fatal crash in the Taiwan Strait strengthens Beijing's determination to set up direct links with Taipei as soon as possible.

The China Airlines Boeing 747 jet was on the way to Hong Kong when it crashed in the water off Taiwan Saturday, killing 225 people. News media say more than 100 passengers were bound for the mainland. They were traveling via Hong Kong because Taipei bans direct links across the Strait.

Liu Guoshen is a professor at the Taiwan Research Institute of Xiamen University. Mr. Liu says "Saturday's crash might cause some leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to think more deeply about setting up direct links. But he is not optimistic that any progress will be made in lifting Taiwan's ban."

Mr. Liu says China has for many years tried to convince the island to set up direct links. However, he blames politicians in Taipei for thwarting China's efforts to establish closer ties.

Tuesday's China Daily report said the ban on direct ties cost businesses and tourists extra time and money.

Taiwan banned direct trade, transport and postal links with the mainland in 1949, when the Nationalists fled China after their defeat by the Communists. China has threatened to attack the island if it declares independence or drags its feet on reunification.

Last week, Beijing invited prominent Taiwan business leaders to hold unofficial talks on lifting the ban on direct links. Those talks, however, have not begun.