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U.S. congressmen call for Taiwan's inclusion in ICAO

2019/09/25 11:56:45

A Taiwan ad near ICAO headquarters

Washington, Sept. 24 (CNA) American congressmen have called on their government to push harder for Taiwan's inclusion in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), arguing that Taiwan's absence endangers millions of travelers who pass through Taiwan's air space annually.

A bipartisan group of 41 congressman made the appeal in a letter initiated by U.S. Congressman Steve Chabot, the co-chair of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, and addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

It calls on the Trump administration to do more to advocate Taiwan's participation as an observer to the ICAO, which is currently holding its triennial week-long assembly at its headquarters in Montreal.

The letter was similar to appeals made by the U.S. Congress in the past to support Taiwan's participation in international organizations, which has generally been blocked by China.

In the most recent letter, issued Tuesday, the congressmen said Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration exclusively administers the Taipei Flight Information Region (FIR), which served 1.75 million flights and 68.9 million passengers in 2018.

The Taipei FIR is also home to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the 11th busiest airport in the world in terms of international passenger traffic and the fifth busiest for international air freight traffic, it said.

"We believe excluding Taiwan from ICAO deliberations on topics ranging from aviation security to economic issues delays the implementation of ICAO regulations and prevents the seamless integration of the Taipei FIR into Asia's civil aviation architecture," the letter said.

Taiwan's exclusion further "jeopardizes the proper formulation of changes to this architecture by failing to consider the needs and perspectives of Taiwan's regulators," it said.

The letter referred to the fact that Taiwan participated in the ICAO Assembly's 2013 session as a special guest of the ICAO Council president. Under Chinese pressure, however, Taiwan failed to receive a similar invitation in both 2016 and this year.

The congressmen criticized Beijing for its "self-serving foreign policy" that "not only deprives the international community of Taiwan's contributions but also endangers the millions of travelers who pass through the Taipei FIR annually."

Stressing that aviation safety must not be a political issue, the congressmen called upon Pompeo and Chao to pay closer attention to the matter as the ICAO holds its assembly.

Echoing a G7 foreign minister communique issued in April, which supported Taiwan's ICAO participation, the congressmen said they too support the substantive participation of all active members of the international aviation community in ICAO forums, adding that excluding some for political purposes compromises aviation safety and security.

"We believe that the United States and like-minded countries should work to make this aspiration a reality," the letter concluded.

Taiwan's representative office in the U.S. thanked the U.S. Congress for its longstanding bipartisan support for Taiwan's participation in international organizations.

The ICAO is a United Nations body responsible for establishing worldwide aviation policies, with the ICAO Assembly serving as the organization's sovereign body that meets once every three years.

Though not a member of the U.N., self-governed Taiwan has sought to take part in the activities of U.N.-affiliated organizations but faced major Chinese obstruction.

The last time Taiwan attended the ICAO Assembly was in 2013, when it was represented by Shen Chi (沈啟), then director-general of the CAA under the previous Kuomintang (KMT) administration that was relatively friendly with Beijing.

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

Cross-Taiwan Strait relations have cooled since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office on May 20, 2016, and opposition from Beijing was widely believed to be the main reason behind the ICAO's decision not to invite Taiwan that year.

Beijing has taken a hardline stance on cross-strait relations because Tsai has refused to accept the "1992 consensus," a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between the then-ruling KMT government of Taiwan and the Chinese government.

Under the consensus, both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge that there is only "one China," with each side free to interpret what "China" means, according to the KMT's interpretation. However, Beijing has never publicly recognized the second part of that formula.

(By Stacy Hsu and Joseph Yeh)
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