A 3D Christmas show displayed outside of a build in New Taipei City, Taiwan. Picture: Chiang Ying-ying/AP

Taipei - Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that it suspects the disappearance of 152 Vietnamese tourists who entered its territory over the weekend to be linked to "possible human trafficking."

The ministry said it has informed Vietnamese authorities that a local travel agency had reported the 152 Vietnamese nationals missing and that their itineraries had been arranged by a Vietnam-based travel agency.

"We urge Vietnam to actively cooperate with us in order to jointly tackle possible human trafficking and prevent this from happening again," ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told dpa.

Local media speculated that the missing Vietnamese tourists may have entered Taiwan to work illegally.

The 152 Vietnamese nationals entered Taiwan through three ports over the weekend on tourist visas granted under a special tourism programme launched in late 2015. 

The programme was designed to attract overseas tourists based on the island's so-called "Southbound Policy." The policy targets 16 south and south-east Asian countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

Visas for the 152 missing Vietnamese nationals have been nullified and Taiwan will temporarily stop granting visas to Vietnamese nationals under the programme, according to the ministry.

Once found, the Vietnamese nationals will be deported for violating immigration laws. They will be also prohibited from re-entering Taiwan for up to five years, according to Taiwan's National Immigration Agency.

dpa