While cross-Taiwan Strait relations are thawing after a two-year lull, Taiwan officials are worried the ice might not melt fast enough to meet the challenges presented by the Hong Kong handover. The biggest problem Taipei faces is how to ensure shipping links with Hong Kong will not be hampered or even severed after July 1. On average, more than 100 ships from both sides enter each other's ports every day. Taiwan's Liberty Times reported yesterday that Taipei-proposed talks between a private association of Taiwan shippers and the Hong Kong Shipowners' Association may get under way by the end of the month. The key issue involves what flags ships from both sides would fly and what documentation they would present when entering each other's harbours. The first so-called direct shipping between China and Taiwan may also start as early as Thursday when a West Indies-registered cargo freighter, the Jung Hua, sails from Fuzhou in Fujian province to Kaohsiung. Yesterday, ties appeared to be getting even warmer after an association of Taiwan-based notaries public told the island's Central News Agency they had received the go-ahead to visit their counterparts in the mainland this month. If China agrees, the group would take Liu Teh-hsun , chief of the Mainland Affairs Council's Legal Affairs Department, and Reed You Jui-teh, Legal Service Department head at the Straits Exchange Foundation as 'advisers'. Meanwhile, the Mainland Affairs Council was reported by the United Daily News yesterday to be preparing for an urgent meeting on April 17 in Taipei between representatives of all 16 offices operated in Hong Kong by various Taiwan government ministries and agencies. Many of the offices, especially the Chung Hwa Travel Service that acts as Taipei's de facto consulate in the territory, feared Beijing might order their closure after Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen warned that Taipei must not use Hong Kong 'as a base to promote 'two Chinas'.'