Chinese airline passengers to start transiting Taiwan

TAIPEI - Chinese passengers will be able to transit through Taiwan and fly onwards to a third destination starting Monday, signalling a step toward greater transportation links between the two political enemies.

The plan had been discussed for years and China announced early last month it would start the transit programme with three trial cities in China.

The move came just before national elections in Taiwan swept in the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, which is seen as less friendly toward Beijing.

Taiwan has been self-ruled since 1949 when the defeated Nationalists fled to the island after a civil war with the Chinese Communists. Beijing deems Taiwan a wayward province to be taken by force if necessary, especially if it makes moves toward independence.

Taiwan's China-friendly ruling Nationalist government, which steps down in May, supported the transit plan as a way to deepen ties between the two sides.

Allowing Chinese passengers flying from China to transit in Taiwan benefits the development of the civil aviation industry and deepens exchanges between Taiwan and China, the island's quasi-governmental Straits Exchange Foundation said in a statement Monday.

Taiwan's state news agency reported that the first Chinese air travellers would stop over on Monday evening from Kunming, Yunnan province, before taking a flight to the United States.

China in early January said passengers from the Chinese cities of Nanchang, Kunming and Chongqing would be allowed to transit through Taiwan's main international airport.

The transit passengers will not be able to leave the airport and must have valid onward travel documents, according to the transit regulations.