The US House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill on Tuesday calling on US Secretary of State John Kerry to “develop and execute” a strategy ensuring that Taiwan is granted observer status at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
“There is an urgent need to ensure that Taiwan has real-time access to air safety information,” said US Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The bill states that Taiwan should be granted a “seat at the table” for the upcoming ICAO meeting in September.
“Taiwan’s unique political status has thus far hindered its inclusion in ICAO,” Royce said.
“With this piece of legislation, we are sending a message that air safety is a priority and not a geopolitical issue — Taiwan is a beacon of freedom in the Asia-Pacific region,” Royce said.
American Samoa Delegate to the US House of Representatives Eni Faleomavaega said that Taiwan had been “shut out” from participating in international organizations like ICAO and that the nation deserved to be “brought in” as an observer.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he said.
US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a former chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the bill was an “excellent piece of legislation.”
“Taiwan is one of our most valued allies,” she said.
Ros-Lehtinen said that Taiwan had become a major hub for international air travel, with almost 1.3 million flights passing over the region each year.
“Due to the ill-advised appeasement of China at the United Nations, Taiwan must receive its international aviation safety and security information second hand,” she said.
“Taiwan’s exclusion from international organizations like ICAO is a short-sighted and dangerous practice,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
She said that it harmed the international community as much as it harmed the Taiwanese themselves.
“Preventing an international player like Taiwan from participating in ICAO threatens the entire international community,” she said.
“Unfortunately, attempts to placate China at the feeble UN are nothing new and are a reminder that that organization lacks seriousness,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “China’s threat that foreign interference will hurt negotiations with Taiwan to allow its participation in ICAO should be ignored.”
“The next meeting of ICAO is this September, and I expect to see our State Department have a strategy that they will implement to make sure that Taiwan will be at the table,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
“You know the old saying: If you are not at the table, you are on the menu,” Faleomavaega said. “Well, Taiwan has been on the menu for too long and they need to be at the table.”
“It is time we readmit Taiwan into ICAO — it is time we fixed this problem,” Royce said.
In Taipei yesterday, UK Representative to Taiwan Chris Wood said the UK will support Taiwan’s participation in the ICAO if the ICAO can find a way for Taiwan to participate in the organizational practically and pragmatically.
Taiwan’s participation is affected by the fact that it is not a member of the UN.
“But we are supportive where practical and pragmatic way can be found for Taiwan’s participation in relevant international organizations where there is benefit to the international community for Taiwan being involved in the organizations,” Wood said.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan