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Cablegate: Shanghai Airlines to Resume Saipan Service December 18

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PP RUEHCN RUEHVC
DE RUEHGH #0485/01 3500202
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 160202Z DEC 09
FM AMCONSUL SHANGHAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8424
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 9088

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SHANGHAI 000485

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/CM, EAP/ANP, CA/VO/P

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR PREL CVIS CH CQ
SUBJECT: SHANGHAI AIRLINES TO RESUME SAIPAN SERVICE DECEMBER 18

SHANGHAI 00000485 001.2 OF 002


This message is sensitive but unclassified. Not for internet
publication; not for dissemination outside USG channels.

1. (SBU) Shanghai Airlines (SAL) representatives met with
Shanghai Consulate Officers December 14 to resolve lingering
confusion following a November 28 Department of Homeland
Security directive permitting visa-free travel to the U.S.
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) by Chinese
nationals. According to the Shanghai Airlines representatives,
coinciding with the November 28 directive, SAL unilaterally
decided to suspend service for the twice-weekly flights
(scheduled for Mondays and Fridays) between Shanghai's Pudong
International Airport and Saipan International Airport. Under
the new directive, DHS indicated it will parole into the CNMI
visitors for business or pleasure who are nationals of the PRC.
Parole will be authorized only for entry into the CNMI and will
not extend to other areas of the United States for a duration of
stay not to exceed 45 days.

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2. (SBU) Embassy Beijing had previously notified the PRC
Ministry of Foreign Affairs via diplomatic note of the impending
change. However, the Shanghai Entry-Exit Administration of the
Public Security Bureau informed SAL prior to November 28 that
the Central Government's Ministry of Public Security had not
issued any guidance concerning the new visa waiver directive.
Consequently, SAL decided to suspend the service pending formal
Chinese internal government notifications (namely, for Shanghai
Entry-Exit Administration to receive word from the Central
Government). The SAL representatives also noted that, in spite
of the new directive, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) had
since informed SAL that pilots and crew would still require
visas. CBP has instituted a transitional period through January
15, 2010 during which PRC-citizen pilots and crew traveling to
CNMI without a visa will not incur any fines. SAL expects to
resume the twice-weekly flights from Shanghai to Saipan
beginning December 18.

3. (SBU) The SAL representatives raised the DHS requirement for
airlines to complete a signatory carrier agreement in order to
be authorized to bring passengers to CNMI under the new
directive. SAL was not prepared for this new requirement when
the directive came into effect. However, according to the SAL
representatives, the airline is now a signatory to the Guam-CNMI
Visa Waiver Program.

4. (SBU) The Shanghai Consular section offered SAL immediate
assistance in obtaining crew visas for an estimated 120 staff
(pilots, engineers, flight attendants) that are involved with
this route. (Note: The CNMI is SAL's first and only passenger
flight to a U.S. destination. SAL also operates cargo flights to
Los Angeles International Airport. End Note.) The SAL
representatives welcomed the offer of assistance and noted that
the staff would apply for their visas upon issuance of new
machine-readable passports by the Shanghai Foreign Affairs
Office.

5. (SBU) SAL and China Southern are the only two airlines to
operate flights between mainland China and the CNMI. SAL
representatives told us that the passenger load for their
twice-weekly flights in the lead-up to the service suspension
was a "satisfactory 80 percent." SAL operates Boeing 767s to
service the CNMI route, with seating for 263 passengers.
According to the SAL representatives, Shanghai-Saipan route
service began with chartered flights in early 2008. Due to high
demand, beginning on September 4, 2009, SAL changed the route
from chartered service to scheduled service.

6. (SBU) Chinese nationals require visas to travel to most
international destinations, which may in part explain some of
the confusion and trepidation exhibited by Chinese authorities
when encountering would be Chinese national tourists departing
China for a U.S. destination without valid visas. Prior to the
new DHS directive that went into effect November 28, CNMI issued
its own, distinct visas to Chinese visitors through two travel
agent consolidators Century Tours and Tinian Dynasty. The
Shanghai Consular section routinely sees the previous CNMI visas
in the passports of visa applicants.

7. (SBU) The China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) works
with Kentucky-based National Tour Association (NTA) to provide
an exclusive "approved list" of tour operators that promote
tourism between the U.S. and China. CNTA and NTA maintain
separate lists. Century Tours and Tinian Dynasty work
exclusively with Chinese tour operators to arrange tours to
CNMI. Although both Century Tours and Tinian Dynasty are U.S.
tour operators based in Saipan, only Century Tours is on NTA's
approved list as of August 11, 2009. Tinian Dynasty operates
under a "special designation" by CNTA. Both operators also have

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representative offices throughout China and work with Shanghai
Airlines and China Southern Airlines to arrange chartered
flights from China to Saipan.
CAMP

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