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July 24, 2017

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Nation seeks 'pragmatic' ICAO participation

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's efforts to seek international support for its participation in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) are not in conflict with its pursuit of engagement with China, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said yesterday.

Taiwan is looking to participate in the ICAO pragmatically, with the aim of protecting travelers' safety, in light of the large number of flights in and out of the country, said Calvin Ho, deputy director-general of the ministry's Public Diplomacy Coordination Council.

Taiwan's bid is aimed at enhancing its people's wellbeing, which is also the focus of the pursuit of a rapprochement between Taiwan and China, Ho said at a MOFA news briefing, in response to questions about China's opposition to what it said was interference by other countries in Taiwan's ICAO bid.

China on Wednesday expressed disapproval over the introduction of two bills in the U.S. Congress that are seeking to develop strategies for Taiwan to secure a place in the ICAO's triennial policy meetings this September as an observer.

The bills were introduced separately on March 14 by Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The U.S. lawmakers said Taiwan should be allowed access to the ICAO in the interest of technical information and air safety, since Taiwan is one of the world's busiest air passenger and cargo hubs.

But China said that while it is happy to help negotiate proper arrangements for Taiwan's participation in international organizations, it is strongly opposed to interference in such matters by other countries.

Besides, the ICAO is an intergovernmental organization made up of "sovereign states," said Yang Yi, spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office.

Hung Tsai-lung, director of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party's China Affairs Department, said Thursday his party is against any effort by China to contain Taiwan, and he urged China to respect Taiwan's rights as a sovereign state.

Taiwan is struggling diplomatically and is grateful for any endorsement of its efforts to participate in the international community, Hung said.

Hung also took issue with President Ma Ying-jeou's stance against engaging in diplomatic battles with Beijing, saying it is misguided.

Ma's administration should change its policies to preserve Taiwan's international space, Hung said.

Meanwhile, the minor opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) urged the Foreign Ministry and Mainland Affairs Council to lodge a protest against China on the ICAO matter.

China is not in a position and has no right to intervene in Taiwan's bid to participate in international organizations, the TSU said.

The ICAO Assembly will be held Sept. 24 to Oct. 4 at its headquarters in Montreal, Canada.

China is one of the 191 member states of the ICAO, which is a United Nations agency.

The Republic of China (Taiwan) was a founding member of the ICAO but has been excluded from the organization since 1971 when the R.O.C. lost its seat in the U.N.

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