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Taiwan looks to resolve suspended cross-strait travel by May end: MOTC

05/24/2024 08:21 PM
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Passenger planes operated by Chinese carriers at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. CNA file photo
Passenger planes operated by Chinese carriers at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. CNA file photo

Taipei, May 24 (CNA) A cross-ministry meeting is to be held to discuss the travel suspension between Taiwan and China in an effort to resolve the current deadlock by the end of May, Transport Minister Li Men-yen (李孟諺) has said.

Li, who briefed local media for the first time since assuming office at the Ministry of Transportation an Communication (MOTC) on Thursday, said cross-strait tourism exchanges should follow the principle of mutual reciprocity proposed by President Lai Ching-te (賴清德).

In his inaugural address on Monday, Lai called on China to engage in cooperation with Taiwan's government, proposing that it could "start from the resumption of tourism on a reciprocal basis, and enrollment of degree students in Taiwanese institutions."

The ministry will work with tourism industry stakeholders on moving toward reopening and does not rule out the possibility of Taiwan taking the first step by making a gesture of goodwill, Li said.

However, citing China's military exercises around Taiwan just three days after Lai's inauguration, Li said the complexity of cross-strait affairs requires interdepartmental discussion.

Livelihood issues should not be overly politicized, and the two sides should simultaneously open up for individual and group travel, Li said.

In August 2019, China halted independent travel to Taiwan, citing the strained state of cross-strait relations, and in 2020 both sides stopped group travel exchanges amid the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures are still in effect.

Taiwan initially planned to resume organized tours to China in August 2023 but later postponed it to February 2024 as cross-strait tensions persisted.

However, by February China had not agreed to allow tour groups to visit Taiwan, and Taiwan's government decided to once again ban local tour groups from heading to China in the name of reciprocity.

As a result, while tours scheduled between March 1 and May 31 this year were went ahead, those scheduled after June 1 were canceled.

The policy U-turn angered local tourism operators, who have threatened to take to the streets if the ban remains in place after June 1.

In response, Li said the MOTC would like to open up to more business opportunities, but the government must also consider national policies and the principle of reciprocity.

Commenting on international visitor arrivals, Li said 2 million such visits were recorded from January to March this year, and the MOTC is hoping to reach 10 million for 2024 as a whole.

(By Wang Shu-fen and Lee Hsin-Yin)


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