UN Aviation Agency Rejects Taiwan: Here’s Why It Matters

30-Sep-2016 Intellasia | Forbes | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Diplomatically isolated Taiwan had a chance to send a delegation to listen in at the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s annual assembly. The UN group, in place since World War II, brings together 191 governments to agree on the best commercial airline practices for flight safety, efficiency and clean air. Taiwan isn’t a member of the body, better known as ICAO, because it left the United Nations in 1971. Taiwan’s giant, globally influential political rival, China, won’t let Taiwan back in. China sees self-ruled Taiwan as part of its own territory, not a state that’s eligible to join UN agencies. China’s pressure through its more than 170 diplomatic allies, compared to Taiwan’s 22, killed the ICAO bid this month, analysts widely suspect.

Taiwan has applied for participation in the United Nations or its sub-agencies since the 1990s, getting shot down by China almost every time. The biggest breakthrough came in 2009 on the back of improving China relations under Taiwan ex-president Ma Ying-jeou. Taiwan was allowed then to observe World Health Organization assemblies. The ICAO’s dismissal this month, ahead of its assembly held every three years, particularly hurts because Taiwan’s aviation sector has reached a stage where it needs more give-and-take abroad.

Here are three specific losses:

1. Taiwan can’t help formulate global practices in commercial aviation. Taiwan wants to help set cross-border aviation policy and know what new rules are in the takeoff queue because flights from the western Pacific island land in 135 cities overseas, a number that will only grow. Taiwan’s chief international airport is expanding and a third terminal will open by 2020 as the first two reach capacity. A role in ICAO “is first and foremost about Taiwan becoming an equal party in discussions and negotiations with other countries,” says Coen Blaauw, executive director of the Washington-based Taiwan advocacy group Formosan Association for Public Affairs. “Taiwan needs to be on the inside, not standing on the outside waiting for a handout.”

2. ICAO member countries miss out on what Taiwan knows. A place with so many flights learns ways of managing them, especially after problems come up. Plane crashes in Taiwan in 2014 and 2015 prompted lengthy reviews, for example. And Taiwan’s airport authorities have a quick knack for knowing just when to stop and restart flights when typhoons hit, as shown three times this month. Whatever Taiwan has learned about aviation will be lost internationally, notes Alan Romberg, director of the East Asia programme at US think tank The Stimson Centre. “Taiwan is situated at a pivotal location, and the Taipei Flight Information Region administered by Taiwan plays an important role in air transport in East Asia,” the island’s foreign ministry said in a statement Friday after the ICAO Council president declined an invitation to the assembly. “Only through continued participation in the ICAO Assembly and related meetings will Taiwan be in a position to…contribute to international aviation safety and development.

3. New hit to fragile China-Taiwan relations. The ICAO had invited Taiwan to participate in its 2013 assembly as once icy China-Taiwan relations thawed to a feverish high. Those ties improved largely because ex-president Ma agreed with Beijing to hold talks as two parts of a single China, a laurel for Beijing’s goal of eventual unification. China would reward Ma then by giving favours over his eight years in ofice. Tsai Ing-wen, today’s president since May, disputes the “one-China” basis for talks and relations have gone on hold with a lot of sniping. China’s apparent role in the ICAO rejection this month marks another decline in relations and a resumption of Taiwan casting China as a bully, some analysts say. “This outcome creates sympathy for Taiwan and an international black eye for China,” says Denny Roy, senior fellow at the East-West centre think tank in Honolulu.

www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2016/09/28/un-aviation-agency-rejects-taiwan-3-losses/

 


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