China-Taiwan Battle Heats Up at UN Air Safety Meeting in Montreal

China-Taiwan Battle Heats Up at UN Air Safety Meeting in Montreal
Photo Credit: Chiang Ying-ying / AP Photo / 達志影像
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China claims responsibility for blocking Taiwan at key international aviation meeting; Taiwanese reporters the latest to be shunned.

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The debacle unfolding at an important international air safety meeting has taken another twist with China appearing to claim responsibility for blocking Taiwan at the event and with Taiwanese journalists reportedly being turned away.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) holds an assembly every three years; its recommendations and policies are considered key to the development and maintenance of global aviation standards.

This year’s meeting, held from Sept. 27-Oct. 7, has been marred by the exclusion of Taiwan, which after years of diplomatic effort attended the 2013 event under the name Chinese Taipei. Several countries, including the U.S. and Japan, lobbied the Montreal-based UN agency again this year for Taiwan’s inclusion.

However, relations across the Taiwan Strait cooled after the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) was voted out of power in January. China, whose representative began a three-year term as ICAO secretary general on Aug. 1 last year, now appears to be claiming responsibility for blocking Taiwan – which is not a UN member – from attending this year’s event.

Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) a spokesman for China’s State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, said on Friday that Taiwan cannot participate because the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration refuses to recognize the "1992 consensus," China’s state-owned Xinhua reported.

"The DPP administration bears full responsibility for this situation,” Ma said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang (陸慷) also said on Friday that adherence to the "one China" policy was a “prerequisite” for Taiwan to participate in any international activity, Xinhua reports.

Despite the lack of an official invitation, a seven-member delegation from Taiwan left for Canada yesterday. The group is hoping to hold talks with countries that have supported its inclusion, Taiwan’s state news agency CNA reported.

Taiwanese reporters blocked

The organization's snubbing of Taiwan also appears to have extended to its journalists, with a CNA reporter saying ICAO is now refusing to allow Taiwanese journalists to attend the assembly.

ICAO has decided that any journalist reporting for Taiwanese media will not be issued a press pass for the assembly, even if he or she holds a Canadian passport, the reporter says.

Taiwanese journalists were reportedly not told in advance of the event that they would not be able to gain entrance. Those who want to cover the event have instead been told to obtain information via the ICAO website.

Last week, Taiwan’s Minister of Transportation and Communications Ho Chen Tan (賀陳旦] ) argued Taiwan’s case in The National Interest, a Washington-based foreign policy magazine.

Ho noted that in 2015 Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport ranked 11th and sixth in the world in passenger and cargo volumes respectively and that the Taipei Flight Information Region—administered by Taiwan – serviced 1.5 million flights carrying almost 60 million passengers.

“Air safety, navigation, security, environmental protection, and economic matters are of great concern to ICAO, and related challenges must be tackled through close cooperation among all countries,” he said. “As such, Taiwan’s meaningful participation in ICAO is a necessity.”

In May, Taiwanese officials attended a World Health Assembly (WHA) conference in Geneva. The event sparked controversy after the invitation asking Taiwan to attend the event as an observer mentioned the “one China” principle.

The so-called 1992 consensus refers to the outcome of a meeting between negotiators from China and Taiwan in 1992. In Taiwan, the main object of dispute over the 1992 consensus is the statement that refers to “both sides recognize there is only one China, but agree to differ on its definition." Taiwan’s main opposition party, the KMT, says the consensus exists, while the ruling DPP denies its existence, although President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has said that the holding of the meeting in 1992 was a "historical fact."

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole