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Taiwan to let more Chinese tourists visit -premier

By Staff
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TAIPEI, Apr 19 (Reuters) Taiwan's government today said it will gradually open its door wider to Chinese tourists, days after Beijing issued new rules allowing authorised group tours to the island it claims as its own.

Premier Su Tseng-chang said a limit on the number of visitors from its giant neighbour was necessary due to national security concerns and to ensure the quality of their trips.

''We can't afford not to set any limits. We are not capable of handling 500,000 or 1 million people coming at the same time,'' state-funded Central News Agency quoted Su as telling a weekly cabinet meeting.

''The opening process must be step by step. We need to have an open attitude, provided that we have the ability to manage,'' Su was quoted as saying.

Taiwan's top China policy-maker, Joseph Wu, said the government would stick to an original proposal of 1,000 Chinese tourists a day, but might raise the ceiling later.

The tourism rules issued on Sunday continued Beijing's campaign of seeking to win over Taiwanese public opinion by holding out possible investment and trade rewards.

But it was unclear how soon such tours could start -- the two sides have wrangled over arrangements and political tensions remain high.

Taiwan's pro-independence government has refused to accept the island belongs to ''one China'' as a precondition for dialogue.

Taiwan and China have been split since 1949, when the Nationalists lost a civil war and fled to the island. China has threatened force if the island of 23 million people formally declares independence.

Both China and Taiwan place tight restrictions on mainland visits to the island. The trickle of mainlanders now able to travel there is tiny compared to the 4.1 million trips to the mainland last year by Taiwanese people, many of them investors.

Last week, China announced possible aviation, agriculture and finance concessions to Taiwan at an economic forum in Beijing attended by Chinese Communist officials and Taiwan's main opposition party, which favours closer ties with the mainland.

Reuters SI RS1546

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