Taiwan’s attendance at the ongoing 38th International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly as a “guest” was an idea proposed by China, ICAO Council President Roberto Kobeh-Gonzalez told Taiwanese reporters covering the event in Montreal yesterday.
Kobeh-Gonzalez’s remarks were reported online in several media outlets when Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) was at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee in the legislature, prompting lawmakers to seek answers from the minister.
Because China was opposed to the US’ idea that Taiwan be invited to the assembly as an observer, it suggested that Taiwan participate as a guest, and the suggestion was accepted by all, Lin said in response to a question from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉).
“This only occurred as a result of compromise,” David Lin added.
According to several reports in Taiwanese media that have sent their reporters to cover the assembly, Kobeh-Gonzalez told them that he invited Taiwan to the event “at the suggestion of the government of China.”
Kobeh-Gonzalez sent a letter of invitation to “Chinese Taipei Civil Aeronautics Administration” Director-General Jean Shen (沈啟) inviting administration experts and officials to be his “guests” at the assembly.
At the opening of the assembly on Tuesday, Shen and her delegation members entered the conference hall of the ICAO headquarters with the name badges listing them as a “Guest” from the “Chinese Taipei CAA,” the first time in 42 years that the country was able to present at the UN’s specialized agency after it abandoned its seat in the UN in 1971.
The presence at the ICAO assembly was hailed by the government, while US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton both issued statements to welcome the invitation for Taiwan to attend the assembly.
However, the nomenclature of Taiwan’s participation in the assembly remained an issue of concern for the DPP, ranging from the name of the delegation, which the DPP said would be mistaken for a local civil aviation authority in Taipei, China, the one-time invitation and now the initiative by China to put Taiwan on the guest list using the Chinese Taipei designation.
DPP Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) told the committee he worried that the arrangements for Taiwan to be present at the ICAO assembly could lead to Taiwan’s international space being further squeezed.
The government has been saying that the presence of Taiwan at the assembly was facilitated by the US, Lin Chia-lung said.
“However, what Kobeh-Gonzalez has said today was a clear message to the international community that invitations for Taiwan to participate in international activities must go through China,” Lin Chia-lung added.
Taiwan’s international space will only get narrower, Lin Chia-lung said.
David Lin told Lin Chia-lung that he could be assured that the model enabling the country’s access to the ICAO assembly this year would not be applied to its quest for participation in other international organizations.
“It’s not an established model [of our international participation],” he said.
As far as the ICAO is concerned, Taiwan will continue to strive to participate in related ICAO meeting, mechanisms and activities as an observer, he added.