Why Taiwan Must Not Be Left Out of the ICAO
Five thousand sixty-eight point five (5,069.5), that is the averaged daily number of flights arriving, departing, or transiting through Taiwan in 2019. That equals to 1.85 million flights in the whole year, with a total of 72 million travelers on board. Among them, few would have noticed a shocking fact: they are flying through the Taipei Flight Information Region (Taipei FIR), which is completely overlooked by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) solely on political grounds.
Yes, ICAO has been sacrificing aviation safety since 1971 only to serve a wildly false political claim – that Taiwan is part of China and thus cannot participate in international organisations. That is a false claim because the People’s Republic of China has never governed Taiwan for one single day. Such a self-imposed doctrine based on non-facts is not only absurd but harmful: by excluding Taiwan, ICAO effectively creates a loophole in its supposedly seamless network of over 300 FIRs, contradicting its own goal of enhancing global civil aviation safety.
Being left out from ICAO meetings, mechanisms and activities, Taiwan has been forced to rely on information shared by friendly countries, such as St. Kitts and Nevis, but that sometimes comes belatedly. Take one example on aviation security measures. In September 2016, ICAO formulated its New Policy Direction on Air Cargo Security, requiring unapproved account consignors to be phased out by June 30, 2021. Without any direct access to related information from ICAO, Taiwan only became aware of this policy in September 2019, when it obtained second-handed information from friendly countries. Taiwan did manage to meet the requirement by the deadline in 2021. Despite being left out in the dark for years, the country has spared no effort to keep up with ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs). We have been doing our upmost to surmount political discrimination and maintain the highest standards of aviation security and safety in the Taipei FIR, not because we love to, but because we have to.
The ICAO’s political discrimination against Taiwan is in the detriment of regional and global aviation development and safety. Such an unjust exclusion of a relevant and contributing stakeholder must not continue. It is high time that Taiwan be invited to participate in ICAO meetings, mechanisms and activities, so as to have a direct and timely access to crucial ICAO information, and exchange aviation experiences with other countries in a meaningful and constructive way. Taiwan deeply appreciates the increasing support from friends and allies in the international community for its participation in ICAO. Once again, and in line with the ICAO 41st Assembly session’s theme “reconnecting the world”, we call on ICAO to reconnect with Taiwan in a collective effort to promote global aviation recovery and achieve the goal of a seamless sky.
H.E. Michael Chau-Horng Lin
Ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis