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Visit a forward move for cross-Straits relations
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The economic interdependency between the two sides of the Straits has been growing in the past 30 years as the Taiwan residents' emotional attachment to the mainland continued to deepen everyday. Taiwan's development is now inseparable from the mainland, and the mainland's development needs Taiwan. It has become a cross-Straits consensus that the ARATS and the SEF must step up exchanges and cooperation for the common good of people on both sides.

On New Year's Day 1979, in its Open Letter to Taiwan Compatriots, the National People's Congress proposed the establishment of "three direct links" across the Taiwan Straits and called for cross-Straits exchanges in economy, science, culture and sports.

After years of efforts, cross-Straits exchanges have made significant progress, but the "three direct links" have yet to be fully established. In the absence of direct flights and shipping across the Taiwan Straits, air and maritime shipping companies on both sides of the Straits have to spend a lot more money, time and energy resources transporting huge amounts of cargo and close to 5 million travelers a year via a third place.

With the "three direct links", according to estimates by some Taiwan business people, direct surface shipping can save three to 21 hours each time and about NT$840 million ($25.47 million) a year; while airlines should be able to spend NT$3 billion less a year than they do now. Leaders of Taiwan's air and maritime shipping industries as well as heads of the seven major business and industrial associations have all expressed their strong desire to see the "three direct links" opened across the Straits.

During his Taiwan visit, Chen will discuss with his counterparts at the SEF such issues as weekday chartered passenger flights, chartered cargo flights from both sides of the Straits, direct sea shipping, straightening of flight routes, new routes for two-way cross-Straits direct flights, cooperation between postal services of the two sides and food safety for both sides. This is a very important step toward opening the "three direct links" across the Taiwan Straits, contributing to advancing the development of cross-Straits relations.

Chen's current Taiwan trip follows the principle of economy ahead of politics, the easy ahead of the difficult and progressing in a steady and orderly manner, and aims to reach agreement on a set of issues through pragmatic discussion. It is another important step toward constructing a framework for peaceful development across the Taiwan Straits.

In addition to working talks and signing of agreements, the ARATS and the SEF will also discuss issues concerning finance, industry and shipping during Chen's stay in Taiwan. The talks and discussions may prove instrumental for the two sides to shift their focus from the "three direct links" to the construction of a framework for peaceful development across the Taiwan Straits with an eye on effectively dealing with the global financial crisis.

(China Daily November 3, 2008)

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