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China mulling Taiwan rail link: state media

world Updated: Mar 12, 2009 11:16 IST

China is looking to build a train line linking the mainland with Taiwan to boost trade ties between the two sides, the Chinese railways minister said in comments published on Thursday.

Liu Zhijun said the government was "actively planning" the rail link, which would allow train travel all the way between Beijing and Taipei, according the Xinhua news agency.

"The railway network is expected to lay a foundation of transport infrastructure for the cross-Straits economic zone," Xinhua reported.

The rail line may stretch across the body of water between Xiamen, a city in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian, and Taiwan, according to Xinhua.

The news agency did not specify how the trains would be carried across the 180-kilometre (113-mile) Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan and China have been split since 1949, after nationalist forces lost a civil war against the communists on the mainland and retreated to the island.

China maintains Taiwan is part of its territory and says the two sides must eventually be reunified, by force if necessary.

The relationship has long been seen as one of Asia's potential military flashpoints but it has warmed markedly since the relatively China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou came to power in Taiwan last year.

Since then, the two sides have held historic talks between senior government figures, and established regular direct flights and postal services.

The Taiwanese government also reported last month it was considering building a bridge from Kinmen, one of its islands, to mainland China.

The bridge would span 8.6 kilometres (5.2 miles) and link Kinmen with Xiamen at a cost of up to 13.2 billion Taiwan dollars (390.5 million US), Ma's spokesman, Wang Yu-chi, told reporters.

However, Wang denied reports that the president had ordered the bridge's construction, saying the final decision would depend on the results of a study.

Taiwan's pro-independence opposition Democratic Progressive Party opposes the bridge, saying it could endanger the island's security.