Taiwan, China sign pacts on sharing weather, seismic data

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan and China signed agreements on meteorology and earthquake monitoring on Thursday, in yet another sign of improving ties between the former rivals.

The pacts brought to 21 the number inked since 2008 when Mr Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan's China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power pledging to strengthen trade and tourism links. He was re-elected in 2012.

"The agreements signed have effectively promoted economic, social and well-being cooperation between the two sides, following the trends and meeting the aspirations of the people," Chinese negotiator Chen Deming said in Taipei.

Under the deals penned, China and Taiwan, which are both prone to natural disasters, will share seismic data in a bid to better safeguard against devastating quakes.

More than 80,000 people died in Wenchuan county in China's Sichuan province in 2008 when a 7.9-magnitude tremor struck.

In 1999, a 7.6-magnitude quake claimed around 2,400 lives in Taiwan.

The 21 pacts cover issues including transport, medicines and health, nuclear power safety, investment protection and customs cooperation.

But despite improving ties Taipei officials say they are not prepared to open sensitive flight routes directly across the Taiwan Strait, citing national security concerns.

At present, no direct flights between China's Fujian province, which sits directly opposite Taiwan, and the island are allowed.

Taiwan has ruled itself for more than six decades since their split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.

China has refused to renounce the use of force to take Taiwan should it declare independence.

Earlier this month the two sides held their first government-to-government talks since they split 65 years ago after a civil war.

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