Fri, Apr 30, 2010 - Page 3 News List

US Homeland official in Taiwan to view security

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

US Department Homeland Security (DHS) acting Assistant Secretary Mariko Silver will observe security measures in place at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport today, marking the highest-level incumbent DHS official to engage in such inspections with the Taiwanese government.

Kirk Skinner, a senior representative of Transportation Security under the DHS assigned to the US embassy in Tokyo, will also attend the inspections.

Asked for comment, Skinner, present on the last day of a two-day conference on homeland security in Taipei yesterday, said the practice was based on an agreement under which “we assist Taiwan with evaluating its airports.”

Skinner did not elaborate on which agreement the practice was based on.

COOPERATION

Speaking by telephone, Harry Tseng (曾厚仁), director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of North American Affairs, said US officials had visited since an exchange of letters in December last year in which the two sides agreed on the principles for cooperation on improving travel security.

“It’s not the first time we have had DHS officials participating in such an inspection, but Silver is the highest-level US official to visit. With the signing of the letter agreement [to enhance airport security], the practices were written into a statutory document,” Tseng said.

Tseng said the purpose of the exchange of letters “is to use it as an umbrella agreement for future bilateral cooperative projects between the US and Taiwan, under which both sides will set up a task force working group with a view to work out cooperative projects to upgrade safety for passengers, refine passport security and bring forth anti-terrorism cooperation.”

AIR MARSHALS

The key points of the exchange of letters included joint efforts to improve travel security, combat counterfeited documents and share passengers’ information; to exchange information on suspected terrorists; to exchange information on reporting systems for lost and stolen passports; to expand cooperation on air marshals and to cooperate on airport security.

Silver arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday and will leave later today.

American Institute in Taiwan spokesman Christopher Kavanagh said Silver had held meetings with various ministries to discuss issues of mutual interest during her stay in Taiwan.

“Prior to her departure [today] she will meet with the aviation police and observe security measures in place at [Taiwan] Taoyuan International Airport,” Kavanagh said in a statement, adding that the DHS’ Transportation Security Administration regularly engages its Taiwanese counterparts on aviation security matters.

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