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Taiwanese opposition party meets with Beijing officials over expanded direct flights
2006-02-22 02:01:12 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

BEIJING, Feb 22 (AP) -- Taiwan's main opposition party opened talks with Chinese officials on Wednesday aimed at expanding direct flights between the self-governed island and China's mainland.

Nationalist Party delegation leader Tseng Yung-chuan said he saw "no real hindrances" to adding more direct charter flights, now limited to a brief period around the lunar New Year. All other flights between Taiwan and China require a stop in a third point, usually Hong Kong.

The holiday flights, now in their third year, have laid the groundwork for more regular service, but "progress has not been fast enough," Tseng said, before reporters were ushered out of the meeting.

China's top Taiwan policy official, Chen Yunlin, said talks would try to eliminate remaining barriers to direct flights and increased tourism.

Taiwan has banned direct flights since the sides split amid civil war in 1949, and has been wary over increasing numbers of Chinese allowed to visit the island, which Beijing claims as its territory and has threatened repeatedly to invade.

China refuses to recognize Taiwan's elected government, requiring most contacts between the sides to be conducted by nominally unofficial groups such as opposition parties.

Tseng's delegation later met with Chen's deputy Li Bingcai, who said most technical issues surrounding expanded direct flights had been resolved already.

"We're very willing to do our utmost to promote the further expansion of these direct flights and hope that this goal can be realized at an early date," Li said.

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