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China, Taiwan in landmark deal
Taipei, Nov 4 (Agencies):
Published on 5 Nov. 2008 12:44 AM IST
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China and Taiwan have signed landmark agreements to improve direct trade and transport links, following the highest-level Chinese visit in decades. The agreements are set to triple the number of weekly direct passenger flights and allow cargo shipments between ports in China and Taiwan. They also aim to improve the postal service and food safety. China claims sovereignty over Taiwan though they have been separately governed since 1949. The agreements were announced on the second day of a five-day visit to Taiwan by Chen Yunlin, China’s top official for handling relations with Taiwan. Previously, sovereignty issues involving vessels and crews forced costly detours through third countries, while China-Taiwan flights were forced to stop in Hong Kong or Macau. Taiwan has the diplomatic recognition of a handful of states. But since Mao Zedong’s Communists won the Chinese civil war and the defeated Kuomintang fled to Taiwan, China has regarded it as a breakaway province which it has threatened to reunify using force. The latest trade agreements come after the two sides held their first, high-level meeting in a decade in June this year, in Beijing. The improvement in relations follows the election of President Ma Ying-jeou in Taiwan. However, Mr Ma’s overtures of ending decades of political rivalry with Beijing have sparked fierce protests in Taiwan, including accusations that he is “selling out” to the mainland. Pro-independence groups staged small protests around Taipei to coincide with Mr Chen’s visit, waving flags and banners. Thousands of police were deployed to ensure Mr Chen’s safety, after his deputy Zhang Mingqing was jostled and knocked to the ground by protesters during a visit to Taiwan in October.

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