Taiwan president endorses offshore islet's bridge with China

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has instructed the government to study the feasibility of building a 10-kilometre bridge between Taiwan's offshore island Kinmen and China's Fujian Province, a newspaper said on Thursday.

At a dinner party with government officials Wednesday, Ma showed keen interest in the Kinmen-Xiamen bridge, the United Daily News said.

Ma thought that once the bridge is built, it could lure many foreign tourists to visit Kinmen, and will also have important significance for cross-strait peace, dpa reported.

Ma said he was awaiting a report from the Council for Economic Planning and Development, which had proposed building the bridge at the end of 2008. The report is to be submitted within a month, the paper reported.

Building the bridge between Kinmen and Xiaman is the common wish of both the Kinmen Island and China, with the Taiwanese island hoping to boost its own economy and China hoping to speed up Taiwan-China unification.

Taiwan in 2001 opened sea and tourism links between the offshore islets of Kinmen and Matsu with China's Fujian Province, and the local governments on each side believe a bridge will improve trade and travel.

The bridge, depending how it will be built, would cost about 10 billion Taiwan dollars (30 million US dollars) and would link up the nearest points of Kinmen and Xiamen.

It would cut Kinmen-Xiamen travel time from the current 70 minutes by boat to 30 minutes by car, to the city centre of Xiamen.

Building the Kinmen-Xiamen bridge is only one of China's ideas to promote Taiwan-China links and speed up Taiwan's unification with the mainland.

China for many years has been mulling a huge construction project that would connect it with the main of Taiwan the entire width of the Taiwan Strait, which at its narrowest is 120 kilometres wide.

Chinese experts and engineers have held several seminars on building a tunnel and invited Taiwan experts to attend these meetings.

The Taiwan Strait has served as a buffer between Taiwan and China since 1949, when the Chinese Nationalists lost the Chinese Civil War and fled to Taiwan to set up their government-in-exile. The prospect of a direct connection across the strait makes many Taiwanese worry about their security.

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