Sat, Aug 28, 2004 - Page 1 News List

US helps push for Taiwan's UN body bid

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The country's prolonged effort to become a member of the UN body that sets and monitors international aviation safety standards is likely to get a boost next month, when a US congressional subcommittee is scheduled to take up the issue.

The aviation subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is planning to hold a hearing next month on the issue, which could result in legislation urging the administration to push for Taiwan's membership, congressional sources tell the Taipei Times.

The hearing will come as the US continues to be concerned with aviation safety and security in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and with Taiwan's important role in the global aviation marketplace.

The hearing was called by subcommittee chairman John Mica of Florida. Mica "has had a keen interest in Taiwan's ability to become a full member of ICAO," said a staffer of the aviation subcommittee.

"His rationale for that is based on a post-9/11 world where safety and security information is important globally, and Taiwan's aviation presence, and frequency and operations to the United States are continuing to grow," he said.

"We believe that it is important that [Taiwan] receive and participate in the process that we are dealing with in safety and security," the subcommittee source said.

The hearing, originally announced Monday, was scheduled to take place on Sept. 9, but a scheduling conflict involving one of the witnesses arose. Jim Hall, former chairman of America's National Transportation Safety Board and scheduled witness, had a conflict, and the hearing had to be delayed. Hall is widely considered one of the US' preeminent aviation safety experts.

Other scheduled witnesses include Jessika Ko (柯莉娟), an outside attorney with Taiwan's China Aviation Administration (CAA), and Fred Laird, a former East Asia official with the US government's Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates US aviation and air safety.

While there are no current plans for legislation proposing Taiwan's membership in the ICAO, a Mica aide said, "I think the chairman will make that decision after the hearing."

There has been support for the nation's ICAO membership in Washington in recent years, but that has taken a back seat to Taiwan's efforts to gain observer status in the annual meetings of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, and participation generally in international organizations, including those that require statehood for membership.

But with the continuing concern over global terrorism and the important role that international aviation can play in the terrorist threat, at least some US leaders now feel that Taiwan's exclusion from international organizations could have a direct impact on US safety and security.

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