- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2006

SHANGHAI (Agence France-Presse) — A Boeing 747 arrived in Shanghai early yesterday in the first direct chartered cargo flight between Taiwan and rival mainland China since they split more than 50 years ago, state media said.

The plane from Taiwan’s leading carrier, China Airlines, was given a grand send-off before departing Chiang Kai-shek International Airport for the flight to Shanghai across the Taiwan Strait.

After a flight of just over two hours, the plane touched down at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport early yesterday, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.

The plane was greeted by a banner reading: “Warmly welcome the first cargo flight of China Airlines,” Xinhua said.

According to Taiwanese news reports and Xinhua, the plane was loaded with 61 tons of equipment for a Shanghai plant of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s biggest contract microchip maker.

The flight was the result of a recent agreement reached by two civil groups authorized by their separate governments in the absence of official contacts.

The agreement also calls for chartered passenger flights.

“This is the less-controversial part desired by both sides,” said an official at Taiwan’s China policy decision-making body, the Mainland Affairs Council, adding that Taipei wanted to see more Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan.

Four more chartered flights would make the trip across the Strait to ship equipment for the microchip plant, China’s state media said. The last plane is scheduled to arrive in Shanghai Aug. 10.

Direct links have been cut since China and Taiwan’s split in 1949 at the end of a civil war. The first nonstop flights over the Taiwan Strait were conducted early this year to celebrate the lunar new year.

Under Taipei’s ban on direct links across the Taiwan Strait, all freight and passengers travel via third ports.

In 2001, Taiwan relaxed its rules on direct connections with China by allowing limited direct trade, post and transportation links between the islands of Kinmen and Matsu and selected ports in China’s southeastern Fujian province.

But the main obstacle to restoring comprehensive links between the two rivals remains the thorny sovereignty issue.

Beijing insists Taiwan recognize its “one China” policy, which regards Taiwan as part of its territory, as a precondition for talks on direct tourist flights — something that Taiwan refuses to do.

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