TT: Considering the diplomatic predicament Taiwan faces, is attending the assembly as an observer not a chance to increase the country’s visibility on the international stage?
Huang: Since the negative effects of going to the assembly outweigh the positive effects, I would rather Taiwan not attend. I am not in favor of squeezing Taiwan’s international space, but when a country makes a move that could put its sovereignty at risk because it amounts to acquiescence in limitations of its independence, it is better to not take that action and avoid jeopardizing the nation’s legal status.
TT: If this is true, why have the US Congress and US President Barack Obama’s administration voiced such strong support for Taiwan’s ICAO bid?
Huang: I wish that the US had not enacted the H.R. 1151 bill.
The law is neutral and friendly to Taiwan — for example, it states that ICAO rules and existing practices allow for the meaningful participation of non-contracting countries, as well as other bodies in the organization’s meetings and activities through the granting of observer status. However, when signing the act into law, Obama issued a statement which damaged Taiwan’s efforts to participate in international organizations.
First, the US president said that international organizations where statehood is not a requirement is a prerequisite for Washington supporting Taipei’s membership bids, otherwise it would only support meaningful participation. The problem with this is that meaningful participation has no legal validity in international law.
Second, Obama said that his administration would construe the act to be consistent with the US’ “one China” policy and made no mention of the US’ Taiwan Relations Act in the statement. This was unusual.
Normally, whenever the US mentions its “one China” policy, it is also mentions the act. Leaving out the act suggests that Washington accepted Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China’s territory because according to the act, Taiwan is a country under US law.
Last of all, Obama’s emphasizing that his administration will interpret and implement sections of the H.R. 1151 bill in a manner that does not interfere with his constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy showed that his administration might not implement the law as requested.