Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) yesterday said that the ministry has not received an invitation to this year’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) assembly in Canada, adding that the government regrets and is disappointed with the outcome, while it believes the apparent decision to not invite Taiwan is a mistake.
“It is extremely unfair to Taiwan and a great loss to international flight safety,” Lee told a news conference in Taipei after confirming at the Legislative Yuan in the morning that the ministry had not yet received an invitation.
Lee on Thursday said that the ministry would know by yesterday whether it would receive an invitation.
Separately yesterday, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that flight safety is a basic human right and should not be compromised with any “premise” or “affected and deprived due to the intervention of political factors,” regardless of political affiliation.
“Since [the first direct presidential election in] 1996, Taiwanese have shown the world our resolve for democracy and freedom. The road chosen by Taiwanese is a demonstration of collective will. If we all agree that democracy is a universal value, then there should not be anyone suffering unfair treatment because they chose democracy; there should not be anyone deprived of their rights just because they do not accept some undemocratic framework and confinement,” the president said.
“Participating in international organizations and activities with equality, dignity and an aim to make a contribution has always been Taiwan’s goal, and part of Taiwan’s rights and obligations as a member of the international community,” Tsai said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said at a legislative question-and-answer session that Taiwan’s international participation has consistently met opposition from China.
“The ICAO is a civil aviation organization and its discussions on security and counterterrorism issues could influence nations worldwide to implement new regulations,” Lee Kun-tse said, adding that 1.53 million aircraft and 58 million people pass through the Taipei Flight Information Region every year, while aviation safety is not confined to national borders and should not be trumped by political ideologies.
Premier Lin Chuan (林全) said that the government has not received an invitation and that Taiwan therefore “has little chance to attend” this year’s ICAO assembly.
“Flight safety is a basic human right and should not be compromised by political factors. [Rejecting Taiwan’s attendance] is an unreasonable treatment and oppression, to which we are here expressing our gravest regret and disappointment,” the premier said.
Lin said the ICAO’s Air Transport Monthly Monitor since July last year has listed Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport as “Taipei, CN (TPE)” rather than “Taipei, TW (TPE)” as it was previously.
The Central News Agency said that ICAO secretary-general Fang Liu (柳芳), a Chinese national, took over the position in August last year.
Lee Kun-tse said China obstructed Taiwan’s participation and has compromised aviation safety by insisting on its “one China” political framework.
“Yes, that is probably the case, but I have to emphasize that this move is a mistake,” Lin said.
Mainland Affairs Council Minister Katharine Chang (張小月) said that as early as Aug. 4, a day after Taiwan sent a letter of willingness to participate in the event to the ICAO president, “the MAC told [its Chinese counterpart] that it is Taiwan’s right and obligation to take part in international organizations with no strings attached and tried to negotiate over [ICAO attendance] with it, but unfortunately, our olive branch failed to receive a positive response.”
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Javier Hou (侯清山) said the ministry had been planning to participate at the meeting since the beginning of the year.
“Our allies and friends had sent letters to the ICAO president, voicing their support, while some did so face-to-face,” he said.
Hou said that the nation’s international participation would require “domestic and international support, and a stable cross-strait relationship.”
When asked how the MAC would prepare for obstructions that might be initiated by China, Chang said that Beijing should be reminded of the “damage it would cause to Taiwanese’s feelings toward China and to the cross-strait relationship.”
“I sincerely call on China to free itself of the burden of history and engage in communication with an open attitude to solve cross-strait issues,” she said.
Lee Kun-tse said Taiwan attended the ICAO meeting in 2013 as a “guest, not even an observer.”
“The invitation sent from ICAO every year has not been an institutionalized arrangement, but an invitation from the [ICAO] president, which has given China the chance to elicit whatever it wishes from Taiwan every time,” he said.
Meanwhile, the New Power Party in a news release called on the government to draft a new strategy for facing China, including using the name “Taiwan” to address the world.
The “extreme self-restraint” exercised since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took office in May has had “no effect,” with China stepping up international pressure across the board, the party said.
“Soft earth only gets dug into more deeply,” the party said. “If you just make one retreat after another, you will only get backed into a corner.”
Additional reporting by Abraham Gerber
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