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Historic China-Taiwan flights begin

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Flights will now run on weekends from Friday through Monday
  • NEW: Charter service eventually could lead to regular commercial service
  • Cross-straits talks between delegations began in 1993
  • Two sides split in 1949 civil war
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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- The first regular charter flights between China's mainland and Taiwan began Friday in a sign of warming relations between Beijing and Taipei.

The flight took off at 6:31 a.m. from Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province in southern China, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported, and it arrived in Taiwan at 8:10 am. after a 1,124-km (700-mile) journey.

Previously, the only chartered flights across the 100-mile Taiwan Strait took place during major holidays. They will now run on weekends from Friday through Monday.

About 760 mainland Chinese plan to make the trip this weekend, but that number is expected to increase to 3,000 by mid-July.

The charter service eventually could lead to regular commercial service. Video Watch why this is significant »

Chinese and Taiwanese officials agreed last month to set up permanent offices in each other's territories, in the first formal talks between the two sides in almost a decade. The Beijing talks also resulted in the agreement for weekend charter flights.

Cross-straits talks between the two delegations began in 1993, a year after China and Taiwan informally agreed that the two sides belonged to "one China." They did not, however, specify what that meant, and both sides were free to use differing interpretations.

After that, the dialogue was delayed for five years over cross-strait tensions.

A second meeting in 1998 was held in Shanghai, but Beijing canceled a 1999 meeting when then-Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui proposed that Taiwan and China treat each other as separate states.

Taiwan's new president, Ma Ying-jeou, has rejected the push for independence.

Although Ma opposes unification with China, he campaigned on promises of seeking closer ties to the mainland, particularly seeking for Taiwan some of the benefits of China's robust economy.


Taiwan separated from China after the communists victory in the Chinese civil war in 1949 -- about 2 million Nationalists Chinese fled to Taiwan and set up a government there.

Beijing has always considered it a part of China and has threatened to go to war should Taiwan declare formal independence.

CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Jamie FlorCruz contributed to this report.

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