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Boosting Aviation Ties

Yuko Hiraga

The number of regular round-trip flights between Tokyo and Beijing, Shanghai and other Chinese cities has more than doubled. There are now 40 such flights per day.

There is also a new direct flight linking the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou with Tokyo's Haneda Airport. The new flights are expected to boost tourism and business.

Guangzhou is China's 3rd largest city in economic terms. Until now, Guangzhou passengers had no choice but to use Narita International Airport - more than 1 hour outside of Tokyo.

Two Japanese airlines held ceremonies at Haneda to celebrate the route expansion.

"It's nice as the only choice was Narita Airport," a female passenger said. "It's convenient."

"I hope people from Japan and China can have more and more exchanges because of this flight increase," another passenger said.

The number of flights between Japan and China was static for several years mainly due to souring political relations between the two countries. But a bilateral summit in November last year triggered the resumption of aviation talks.

As a result, from this month, the total number of round-trip flights connecting Japan and China has increased from about 800 to a record 1,000 per week.

About 3-million-838-thousand Chinese tourists visited Japan between January and September this year. That's 60 percent more than the whole of last year.

In Guangzhou, officials at the Japanese consulate general say they issued more than 410,000 visas from January to September this year. That's almost double the same period last year.

"I think the opening of new routes will encourage more business people and tourists to travel between the two countries," said Norio Saito, Japanese Consul-General in Guangzhou.

The new route between Haneda and Guangzhou is also expected to improve access and efficiency for business and trade.

An automobile company, headquartered in Yokohama near Haneda, operates a joint venture in Guangzhou. The company says the new flights will cut the time for business trips by a day.

"Travel between Japan and China will be easier," said Susumu Uchikoshi, Managing Director, Dongfeng Nissan. "New flight routes to and from Haneda will increase exchanges and improve business efficiency."

Another Japanese company in Guangzhou uses international cargo flights to transport auto parts to Japan. The company says it will be able to collect parts in Guangzhou in the morning, and deliver them to plants in Tokyo and suburbs on the same day.

"Some customers are asking whether they can reduce delivery time by using Haneda," said Tsutomu Yonekura, Branch Manager, Nippon Express China. "We believe doing so could make a significant difference in emergency cases."

People in both countries are expecting a big boost to tourism and business and what's for sure is China and Japan will soon be seeing a whole lot more of each other.

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