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Cablegate: Taiwan to Expand Cross-Strait "Mini-Link" Program

VZCZCXRO9888
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHIN #0393 0800317
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 200317Z MAR 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8424
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS TAIPEI 000393

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE PASS USTR FOR STRATFORD, DKATZ
STATE FOR EAP/TC, EAP/EP
COMMERCE FOR 3132/USFCS/OIO/EAP/WZARIT
TREASURY FOR OASIA/TTYANG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD CH TW

SUBJECT: Taiwan to expand cross-Strait "mini-link" program


1. (U) Summary. On March 19, the Executive Yuan (EY) approved the
expansion of the cross-Strait "mini-link" program designed to boost
local economic development through tourism. The expansion will
allow a daily quota of 680 mainland Chinese, mainly from Fujian
Province, to tour Kinmen and Matsu islands, as well as the same
daily quota of Taiwan residents not living on Kinmen and Matsu to
travel to China via the two islands. KMT presidential candidate Ma
Ying-jeou has previously stated his support to open Kinmen and Matsu
airports for regular cross-Strait flights, and DPP presidential
candidate Frank Hsieh supports establishing cross-Strait charter
fights to help prevent the marginalization of Taiwan's offshore
islands. End Summary.

2. (U) The March 19 EY session approved a Mainland Affairs Council
(MAC) proposal to expand the mini-link proposal, with a planned
implementation date of April 1. Mainland Chinese tourists are now
allowed to visit Kinmen and Matsu subject to case-by-case approval.
The new program, however, sets a quota of 600 daily tourists for
Kinmen, and 80 daily tourists for Matsu. At the same time, a daily
quota of 680 Taiwan residents not living on Kinmen or Matsu will be
allowed to visit China via the two islands. The daily quota could
be expanded if China permits to increase Mainland Chinese to tour
Kinmen and Matsu.

3. (U) In addition, the EY announced plans to expand the mini-link
program to include Taiwan investors in China. Starting on April 1,
2008, Taiwan investors in China, their dependents, and Taiwan
employees working in China will be able to use the mini-link program
to travel between Taiwan and the mainland. Currently, Taiwan
investors in China can only use the mini-link program during the
Chinese New Year holidays, or by applying on a case-by-case basis.

4. (U) Established in January 2001, the "mini link" program gives
Kinmen and Matsu residents transportation service to Xiamen and
Fuzhou in China's Fujian Province. In early 2004, Taiwan's UNI
Airways and Fujian Xiamen Shipping Corporation, China (FXSC)
launched a joint air and marine service on the routes. Flying from
Taipei to Kinmen and then transferring to a ship sailing for Xiamen
takes only three hours and costs approximately U.S. $2000 for a
round trip. In 2007, over 780,000 Taiwan travelers used the
mini-link program.

5. (U) According his campaign policy "white paper", KMT
presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou supports setting up a special
casino and business zone on Penghu, with a view toward promoting the
island's economic development. Ma is in favor of allowing all
Taiwan and mainland Chinese tourists to use Kinmen and Matsu
airports, as well as the ports of Kinmen, Matsu, and Penghu islands.
In addition, Ma is proposing to promote special tourist packages
and routes connecting China, Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu. In
his tourism "white paper", DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh
supports expansion of cross-Strait charter flights through Kinmen
and Matsu in an effort to prevent the islands' marginalization.
Hsieh also favors setting up a special economic zone on Kinmen as
part of an expansion of the mini-link program.

YOUNG

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