U.S. supports Taiwan's participation in WHA, Interpol, ICAO: envoy

04/15/2019 12:15 PM
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AIT Director Brent Christensen
AIT Director Brent Christensen

Taipei, April 15 (CNA) The United States will continue to do its part to help Taiwan expand its role on the world stage, the de facto American ambassador to Taiwan said Monday, calling for more countries to join the effort despite pressure from China.

In an address at a conference held to mark the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), Brent Christensen, director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), reiterated his country's long-term support for Taiwan's meaningful participation in international organizations.

"As the United States has stated many times, we support Taiwan's full membership in international organizations that do not require statehood," he said. "And in organizations that require statehood for membership, the United States still supports Taiwan's meaningful participation."

Christensen listed several organizations in which Taiwan should be able to participate, including the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO); the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol); and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

In the case of the WHA, Taiwan has much to offer, given its expertise in healthcare, and that was why it was invited to the annual WHA meetings from 2009 to 2016, before its most recent change of government, he said.

"Then after free and fair elections, Taiwan was suddenly no longer welcome to attend," Christensen said.

That demonstrated Beijing's political interference, its efforts to prevent the WHO from inviting Taipei to the WHA over the past two years, Christensen said.

China's efforts have also come to bear on Interpol and the ICAO, which have denied Taiwan access to their databases and latest information, he said.

"We continue to work with other like-minded countries to lobby international organizations to put health, security and economic prosperity above politics," Christensen said in a keynote address at a conference titled "Taiwan Relations Act @ 40: Where We've Been, and What's Next?"

The half-day event brought together former and current officials and academics from the U.S. and Taiwan to discuss the history of the TRA and the future of relations between the two countries.

The TRA was signed in April 1979 by then U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a few months after the U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. The AIT was launched in 1979 to serve as the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties.

The TRA provides a legal basis for unofficial relations between the U.S. and Taiwan and enshrines in law the U.S.' commitment to helping Taiwan maintain its self-defense capability.

When the TRA was first legislated, it only had three articles and failed to cover critical aspects of Taiwan-U.S. relations, such as arms sales, according to Taiwan's former Foreign Minister Chen Chien-jen (程建人), who also addressed the conference.

"At first, we were not satisfied (with the TRA) but nevertheless we believe we made the best of a bad situation," said Chen, who was serving as a secretary at the Taiwan representative office in Washington, D.C. at the time and was closely following the development of the TRA.

Later, the U.S. Congress, which was unhappy with Carter's decision to switch diplomatic ties, expanded the legislation into a more comprehensive act that comprised 18 articles, he said.

The TRA now gives U.S. presidents flexibility in dealing with the unofficial relationship with Taiwan, especially regarding arms sales, Chen said.

He said he hoped the TRA would continue to create an environment "conductive to lasting peace and a win-win-win situation for all involved."

That would be the "true legacy of the TRA," Chen said.

(By Joseph Yeh)


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