TOKYO, June 13 (KUNA) -- China and Taiwan signed historic agreements Friday to allow mainland tourists to travel freely in Taiwan from next month and begin cross-Strait weekend charted flights, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
Chen Yunlin, chairman of the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), and Chiang Pin-kun, chairman of the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), signed the agreement in Beijing.
The agreement will see the first tourist group arrive in Taiwan on July 18. "A maximum of 3,000 mainland tourists can travel to Taiwan every day," the agreement says.
Currently, only 1,000 mainland Chinese tourists are allowed to travel to the island, and passengers must fly via Hong Kong or another third location except during limited holiday periods.
Under the aviation agreement, the service, scheduled to start from July 4, will include 36 return flights for every weekend, from each Friday to the following Monday, and the number will increase according to demand.
The agreements came one day after the ARATS and SEF resumed talks on Thursday for the first time in nine years.
Established in the early 1990s, both SEF and ARATS are engaged in talks on issues related to cross-strait exchanges, as China and Taiwan do not have diplomatic relations.
The cross-strait negotiations were suspended in 1999 after Taiwanese leaders began to openly suggest that it should formally be considered a separate state. Their meeting comes after the chairman of Taiwan's ruling Nationalist Party held a landmark talks in Beijing with Chinese President Hu Jintao last month in the highest-level meeting in 60 years.
China and Taiwan separated after a civil war in 1949, but Beijing still sees Taiwan is part of its territory, and has threatened to use force if the island moves towards declaring independence.
Taiwan's relations with China have been strained in recent years, as former president Chen Shui-bian has pushed to formalize Taiwan's sovereignty.
But relations between the two sides have eased after Ma Ying-jeou was sworn in late May as Taiwan's new president, who has pledged to improve ties with China. (end) mk.rk KUNA 131120 Jun 08NNNN