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.
The attendance at this year’s assembly was the first positive step forward toward the goal, David Lin said.
“We have to reach out [internationally],” he added.
Meanwhile, at a regular press conference at China’s Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing yesterday, spokesman Yang Yi (楊毅) was asked by a Taiwanese reporter to comment on Kobeh-Gonzalez’s remarks.
“The way that the Chinese Taipei CAA was invited by the ICAO council president as his guest reflects our goodwill to our Taiwanese compatriots and sincerity to maintain the momentum of peaceful development of cross-strait relations,” Yang said.
Shen on Tuesday denied that Taiwan’s aviation data was being sent to the ICAO through China, responding to a remark by an ICAO consultant that Taiwan’s information should be forwarded via China under the “one China” policy.
The CAA has always posted its aeronautical information on its Web site, allowing open access to the data, Shen said.
Taiwan has never asked China to forward aviation information to the ICAO, she said at a party hosted by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada to welcome Taiwan’s delegation to the ICAO assembly.
Shen was responding to a remark by ICAO consultant Denis Chagnon, who told Taiwanese reporters earlier in the day that Taiwan’s aviation data should be passed to the ICAO via China as the ICAO is under the UN, which adheres to the “one China” policy.
The policy refers to Beijing’s claim that there is only one state called China and Taiwan is a part of that entity.
Shen said it has been difficult for Taiwan to receive ICAO information on matters such as air safety since Taiwan is not a member of the agency.
She said she hopes Taiwan will be given such information directly following the assembly.
Additional reporting by CNA