Taiwan, China launch historic weekend charter flights
Taiwan and China are set to launch weekend charter flights Friday to ease tension and promote
From early Friday morning until afternoon, 6 Chinese airlines and 5 Taiwan airlines will operate a total of 18 round-trip charter flights across the Taiwan Strait.
The first batch of Chinese tourists, called the inaugural delegation, is led by China's tourism minister Shao Qiwei. The group includes 26 tour groups with 661 tourists and a tourism inspection delegation with nearly 100 officials and reporters.
The Chinese tourists will be greeted at various Taiwan airports by Taiwan officials, reporters, gifts, firecrackers and a traditional lion dance.
Taiwan will also send an delegation to China on the charter flight. The 191-strong delegation made up by local officials and tourists will fly from Taichung, central Taiwan, to China's southern city of Xiamen for city-to-city exchanges.
The opening of weekend charter flights is part of President Ma Ying-jeou's package to seek economic cooperation with China and reduce the risk of war.
Ma hopes that the weekend charter flights can be expanded to daily flights and eventually to regular flights across the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan, seat of the exiled Republic of China since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, has banned direct sea, air and trade links with China since 1949, and has banned Chinese mainlanders from entering Taiwan.
China has repeatedly called on Taiwan to drop the bans to pave the way for Taiwan's unification with the motherland.
But Ma, while supporting economic integration with China, has rejected China's call for unification, saying conditions are not ripe for discussing unification yet, dpa reported.