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President protests ICAO's refusal to invite Taiwan (update)

2016/09/23 16:27

Taipei, Sept. 23 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) expressed strong regret and discontent Friday after the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) refused to invite Taiwan to its upcoming triennial assembly, presumably because of China's objections.

The decision is extremely unfair to Taiwan and is a major loss to global aviation safety, Tsai said while receiving a delegation from the European Parliament's Committee on International Trade.

She noted that the Taipei flight information region, which handles 1.53 million flights and 58 million passengers per year, is an important and busy part of the global aviation network.

Calling aviation safety a basic human right, she said Taiwan should not be excluded from a meeting promoting global aviation safety due to political factors.

"No one should be treated unfairly just because they choose democracy. And no one should be deprived of the rights to which they are entitled just because they do not accept certain undemocratic frameworks," she said, apparently referring to Beijing's demand that Taipei accept the "1992 consensus" on "one China."

The ICAO is a U.N. specialized agency responsible for establishing worldwide aviation policies.

The 39th ICAO assembly will be held from Sept. 27 to Oct. 7 at the ICAO's headquarters in Montreal, Canada, and Foreign Minister David Lee (李大維) confirmed Friday that Taiwan has not been invited to attend the meeting.

In 2013, Taiwan was represented at the 38th ICAO assembly by Shen Chi (沈啟), then-director-general of the Civil Aeronautics Administration, who was invited as a special guest of then-ICAO Council President Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez.

That marked Taipei's first representation at the ICAO assembly since losing its seat in the United Nations to Beijing in 1971.

Cross-Taiwan Strait relations have cooled since Tsai took office on May 20, and opposition from Beijing is widely believed to be the main reason behind the ICAO's decision to not invite Taiwan this year.

China has insisted that the "1992 consensus" is the political foundation for cross-strait dialogue and exchanges, but the Tsai administration has refused to accept that.

The 1992 consensus refers to a tacit agreement reached between Taipei and Beijing in 1992 that there is only one China, with each side free to interpret what that means.

In a statement issued Friday, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) expressed strong regret and displeasure over Beijing's use of the "one China" political framework to suppress Taiwan's participation in international organizations.

Since May 20, China has said Taiwan will be unable to participate in international organizations or meetings without a cross-strait political foundation that embodies the "one China" principle, the council noted.

The council said it made a request on Aug. 4 to discuss the ICAO issue with China, but the request was turned down immediately.

It said the move has hurt the feelings of the Taiwanese people and is contradictory to Beijing's promise to promote cross-strait peace, and it urged Beijing to resume dialogue with Taipei soon to resolve the two sides' differences.

Also Friday, lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) contended that Taiwan failed to obtain an invitation from the ICAO this year because the incumbent ICAO secretary-general, Liu Fang (柳芳), is a Chinese national.

According to Lo Chih-Cheng (羅致政), a convener of the Foreign and National Defense Committee, Beijing has intensified its suppression of Taiwan since the DPP returned to power, and Taiwan's failure to attend this year's ICAO assembly represents a retreat in cross-strait relations.

Meanwhile, Liu Fu-kuo (劉復國), a research fellow at National Chengchi University's Institute of International Relations, said the latest development signals that Beijing is getting impatient with the Tsai administration's reluctance to openly accept the "1992 consensus."

(By Sophia Yeh, Chen Chia-lun, Wen Kuei-hsiang and Y.F. Low)ENDITEM/ls