Taiwanese business and industrial interests have long urged the government to allow direct cross-strait flights. Not only would it cut costs for the hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese businesses with investments and operations in China, but it would make life that much easier for the estimated 1 million ROC citizens now living and working on the mainland.
So far, the government has been cool to the idea of a wholesale lifting of the ban, but many proponents of the Three Links, including Kuo Tai-chiang, the chairman of Taiwan's Council for Industrial and Commercial Development, believe a more immediate goal is attainable. He wants the government to OK direct charter flights for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival in mid-September, as was the case during this year's Lunar New Year holiday in January and February.
MAC Chairman Joseph Wu commented that there is little chance for the latter request to be realized, although he has promised to push for talks with China on the opening up of direct non-stop passenger, cargo and special-purpose charter flights.
Director of MAC's Economic Affairs Department, Fu Don-cheng, expressed hope that the MAC could play a more active role in future bilateral talks. He said Aug. 16, "If the MAC is allowed to become more involved in the upcoming bilateral negotiations, we should be able to discuss the issues in more depth." According to the MAC, the government has asked members of the Taipei Airline Association to negotiate a charter-flight deal with their Chinese counterparts. Premier Frank Hsieh said he was optimistic that the talks proposed by Taipei on both cargo and passenger flights would see results soon.
Although there have been concerns about whether Taiwan's approval of overflights would prompt China to seek a reciprocal arrangement, Hsieh told the Central News Agency Aug. 4 that Taiwan would not grant Chinese aircraft the right to overfly the island unless China is willing to sign a peace treaty with Taiwan.
The premier explained that, because China has hundreds of missiles aimed at Taiwan and its government has repeatedly threatened to take over the island by force, "overflights of our airspace by mainland Chinese aircraft naturally pose a threat, and this is not permissible."