Taiwan and the mainland are to hold talks on allowing mainland visitors to use Taiwan as a transit point to travel to other countries, a move that would significantly benefit the island's tourism sector.
Beijing has also agreed to discuss allowing humanitarian visits to Taiwanese citizens held in mainland prisons, as part of the function of bilateral representative offices planned for the future.
"These are significant outcomes of the meeting for the day," Wang Yu-chi, chairman of Taipei-based Mainland Affairs Council, said yesterday in Taoyuan, south of Taipei.
Wang was speaking after a meeting with his counterpart, Zhang Zhijun, of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, who arrived on the island yesterday for a four-day visit.
It is Zhang's first trip to Taiwan and he is the most senior official in charge of cross-strait relations to have visited. It reciprocates a landmark trip by Wang to Nanjing in February.
"The mainland side agreed to have relevant tourist departments hold talks on allowing mainland visitors to transit to other countries from Taiwan," Wang said, adding this had long been a goal for Taiwan.
Tourism and airline officials said if Taiwan became a transit point for mainland tourists, it would greatly benefit the direct-flight arrangements and make it more convenient for visitors.
Wang also said the mainland side responded positively to another long-time request, that of visiting rights for Taiwanese inmates on the mainland.
Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office who is accompanying Zhang on the visit, also said the mainland side agreed to study the possibility of Taiwan joining other regional trade blocs.
He said Zhang's return visit represented the mainland's acknowledgement of the establishment of an unprecedented official channel between the mainland and the island, which allowed officials from the two offices to cut through the bureaucracy and make direct calls to discuss important matters.
Earlier yesterday, Zhang said he had two priorities during the trip. The first was to hold the formal meeting with Wang and the second was to meet local people to increase understanding on both sides of the strait.
Zhang was greeted by at least three protest groups when he touched down in Taipei.
"Though our flight from Beijing to Taiwan took merely three hours, it has taken us 60 years to finally establish a formal communications channel between our two sides," Zhang declared.