China, Taiwan to discuss sea links in autumn talks
China and Taiwan will hold talks in autumn to discuss opening sea links across the Taiwan Strait, dpa reported.
The statement was made by Chen Yunlin, China's top negotiator with Taiwan, at a maritime seminar Thursday in Taicang, in China's Jiangsu Province, the China Times said.
The seminar was attended by Chinese and Taiwanese shipping industry executives and port officials.
At the seminar, Chen, chairman of the Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), said he expects to visit Taiwan in autumn, and the first issue to be discussed will be sea links across the Taiwan Strait.
"ARATS is making preparations for holding talks on opening sea links across the Taiwan Strait. Sea links will be top issue for the autumn talks because China and Taiwan have reached consensus on it, so we should make it happen as soon as possible," China Times quoted him as saying.
Chen said that he was attending the seminar to hear ideas from Taiwan shipping representatives, ahead of holding talks.
At the seminar, Taiwan shipping representatives said it is urgent for Taiwan and China to open sea links because the island's ban on sea links with China has seriously hurt Taiwan's economy.
Lin Sun-san, vice chairman of Taiwan's Evergreen Marine Corp, said that direct sea links will benefit Taiwan shipping firms because their vessels will be allowed to sail directly to China.
"I hope Taiwan will stop being a sucker, because right now Taiwan ships must sail indirectly to China and let foreign countries make money out of this," he said.
Taiwan has banned sea and air links with China since 1949, when the Republic of China government lost the Chinese Civil War and fled to Taiwan to form its government-in-exile.
On July 4, Taiwan relaxed the air link ban by launching weekend charter flights with China, so that Chinese tour groups can visit Taiwan.
President Ma Ying-jeou from the pro-China ruling party KMT hopes the weekend charter flights will be expanded to daily charter flights and eventually to regular flights.
Ma has expressed the hope that the two sides can discuss opening direct sea links.
Taiwan's five-decade ban on sea links has seriously hampered Taiwan's shipping industry, forcing some foreign shipping lines to withdraw from Taiwan or downsize their operations in Taiwan.
In the latest blow caused by the sea links ban, AP Moller-Maersk, the world's largest container shipping fleet, plans to cut half of its container handling capacity at Kaohsiung Harbour, the world's eighth-busiest container port.
Maersk is Kaohsiung Harbor's largest foreign client. On Thursday, Kaohsiung Harbor confirmed that Maersk intends to give up two of the four berths it leases in the harbor, when the lease expires in October.