It surprised me that the government has attached such great importance to participating in the assembly as an observer so the nation can enhance its aviation safety and standards as there is no logical link between the two.
For which issues does the ICAO need Taiwan present at the assembly? Which delegation invoked Article 5 to initiate the invitation?
TT: What exactly does being a guest of the ICAO council president mean?
Huang: Gonzalez did not invite Taiwan to be his guest at the assembly on his own accord. He extended the invitation because some of the agency’s members asked him to. It is impossible to judge from the letter he sent to Jean Shen (沈啟), who is responsible for initiating the invitation, but the government is responsible for telling the public which ICAO member put a delegation from Taiwan using the name “Chinese Taipei Civil Aeronautics Administration” on the guest list.
TT: Does the 1944 Chicago Convention that established the ICAO allow for Taiwan’s participation?
Huang: I would say no. The government has made the wrong move in proposing the bid, a completely wrong move. There is no way China is going to agree to that because strong implications that Taiwan is a sovereign state could be drawn from its participation in the aviation agency.
Article 1 of the Chicago Convention states that “its contracting states recognize that every state has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory.”
TT: Why is the government attaching such importance to becoming an ICAO observer then?
Huang: Aside from my understanding that some of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) brain trust are personally interested in the organization, I would say that it was the Ma administration’s premeditated plan to try and access the ICAO.
Since participation in the agency’s activities is an emblematic of state sovereignty, the administration knew that its bid would only result in the nation’s sovereignty being denigrated, which is exactly what has happened.
Conventional perspectives of international law say that if a country accepts arrangements limiting its sovereign rights, with or without resistance, it constitutes acquiescence to the loss of sovereignty. If things go on like this for years and the acquiescence grows, it would be interpreted in a way detrimental to the country’s sovereign rights.
TT: Is Taiwan’s exclusion from the ICAO detrimental to global air safety?
Huang: The ICAO was the first of the UN’s specialized agencies to expel Taiwan after the Republic of China lost its seat at the UN to China in 1971.
In the 42 years since then, has Taiwan’s airspace ever been considered an area in which activities that could endanger aircraft occur? Has any country failed to sign an agreement on exchange of air traffic rights with Taiwan because of the nation’s lack of access to the aviation agency? The answer to those questions is: No.
The Civil Aeronautics Administration has ensured that every standard adopted in the Taipei Flight Information Region is in line with ICAO standards, through collaborating with aviation authorities like the US Federal Aviation Administration or the Joint Aviation Authorities.
It is true that Taiwan has to get its ICAO information via indirect channels, but it can use a variety of well-established mechanisms to access this information. Being present at the assembly as a guest would in no way solve any problems related to information access.