Timetable for Taiwan-Japan aviation pact to be set soon

Taipei, Oct. 27 (CNA) Taiwan's foreign minister on Thursday gave a preliminary timetable for the signing of an open skies agreement with Japan, one month after Tokyo cancelled the previously scheduled signing of the bilateral pact at the last minute. "I hope a specific timetable will be set sometime in the middle of next month," Timothy Yang said at an informal press gathering. Under the agreement, all Taiwanese air carriers can apply to operate scheduled services to 10 Japanese destinations except for Tokyo, and there will not be any restrictions on the number of flights allowed. Tokyo is excluded from the open skies deal because there in an agreement between Narita International Airport and local residents to restrict the number of flights in and out of the airport, making an increase of flights to Tokyo unlikely, according to Taiwan's Ministry of Transportation and Communications. Yang dismissed speculations that Beijing had pressured Japan to cancel the signing of the pact on Sept. 22, the day of the scheduled signing ceremony. On that day, the new chairman of the Japan Interchange Association (JIA) made his first trip in his capacity as Japan's top liaison officer to Taiwan and signed a bilateral investment protection agreement with Taiwan instead. JIA represents Japan's interests in Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties. Yang said that the Taiwan-Japan investment pact, compared to the aviation agreement, was of "higher quality" and its content more complicated. If China were to obstruct Taiwan's economic ties with Japan, the investment pact would not have been finalized, the minister said. Asked what had caused the delay in the signing of an open skies agreement if China was not the cause, Yang said that administrative work is still undergoing in Japan and that an outcome should be expected "very soon." "It is just a matter of time," Yang said, assuring the media that the pact would definitely be sealed. "We must have patience." Japan will be the third country to establish an open skies agreement with Taiwan after the United States and Singapore. (By Nancy Liu)