After decades of dynamic economic growth and the emergence of a dynamic democracy, Taiwan ought to stand shoulder to shoulder with its neighbors in the vibrant East Asia region. However, the nation’s unresolved political status is creating an increasingly large gap in many areas of international cooperation. One of those is international air travel to and from Taiwan.
Because of entirely political reasons, the nation is unable to join the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the international body that helps establish and disseminate information about global civil aviation safety standards. For the safety of its own travelers and airlines, as well as those from Taiwan and around the world, the US needs to lead the way in helping Taiwan find an appropriate role in this international body from which it has been excluded for far too long.
We are happy to report that the US Senate took one step forward in doing so by unanimously passing legislation we authored aimed at helping Taiwan gain observer status at the ICAO.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have demonstrated that the global civil aviation network is subject to vulnerabilities that can be exploited in one country to harm another. The ability of civil aviation authorities to coordinate, preempt and act swiftly and in unison, is an essential element of crisis prevention and response. Our bill places Taiwan on the road to participating in this vital international body by directing US Secretary of State John Kerry to develop a strategy to obtain observer status for Taiwan at the triennial ICAO Assembly in September in Montreal, Canada, and others.
It also directs the US mission to the ICAO to request observer status for Taiwan at the ICAO assembly, and strongly urges ICAO member states to support observer status and participation for Taiwan. Finally the bill requires the US Department of State to submit a report to US Congress, within 30 days of enactment of the bill, describing the US strategy to endorse and obtain observer status for Taiwan at the ICAO.
Our bill concerns the safety of travelers in and through Taiwan, be they American, Taiwanese or from anywhere else. However, more importantly, it is also about having Taiwan play an appropriate role in the global community.
The nation has the world’s 18th largest economy and is the US’ 10th largest trading partner. It sits at the center of the East Asia region, a dynamic hub of economic growth. Yet, due to its unique political status, it has found itself shut out of many of the international bodies that help smooth and regulate the flow of money, people and goods, of which it is a key part. Taiwan-owned Boeings circle the globe and more than 1.2 million flights pass through its airspace each year. Yet Taiwan has no role in the ICAO, hampering its access to the information and training necessary to keep its aviation system in line with global safety standards.
There are many benefits from Taiwan playing an appropriate role in the ICAO, and in other international bodies such as those regulating financial institutions, shipping, fishing, nuclear energy and weapons of mass destruction. All are areas in which Taiwan has an important role to play and where the world would be better off for including it. We cannot allow squabbles about names and flags to undermine the fundamental interests of all nations and their people. It is in the interests of the international community to include Taiwan in these and other international bodies and we want the US, Taiwan’s closest international partner, to lead the way.
US senators Robert Menendez and Jim Inhofe are co-chairs of the US Senate Taiwan Caucus. Inhofe is ranking member of the US Senate Armed Services Committee. Menendez is chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.