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Taiwan to allow Chinese tourists, business people to visit again

FILE PHOTO: Monks from China's Shao Lin Temple prepare to perform in Taipei

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan's government on Thursday said it will from this month allow Chinese tourists and business people to visit again as it seeks to resume exchanges halted by the COVID-19 pandemic and extend an olive branch to Beijing.

China, which has been gradually resuming permission for its nationals to visit a host of popular tourist destinations including Japan, has yet to add Taiwan back on its approved list.

In 2019, China halted individual tourism permits for Taiwan amid rising tensions over the democratically governed island that Beijing claims as its sovereign territory.

Taiwan's China policy-making Mainland Affairs Council said that business people from China will be allowed from Monday to apply for short term visits such as for attending exhibitions, and will from Sept. 1 allow Chinese who live in third countries to come as tourists.

Tour groups from China will be limited to 2,000 arrivals per day, but the actual date from when this will begin will depend on the reaction of the Chinese government, the council added in a statement.

"We hope the mainland side will also take steps and meet us halfway to facilitate the promotion and implementation of the plans," it said.

There was no immediate reaction from China to the announcement.

Taiwan's government has been trying to improve relations with China starting with less sensitive issues like tourism, but China has instead blamed Taiwan for problems, including a slow resumption of direct flights.

Tourism is not a mainstay of Taiwan's tech-oriented economy, but the island is an increasingly fashionable destination for mainly Asian tourists attracted by its renowned food scene, history and mountains.

Taiwan has set a target of 6 million tourist arrivals this year.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Bernadette Baum)