WASHINGTON, D.C.: A United States Senate committee on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) backed Taiwan’s participation at the United Nations aviation agency, in a small victory for the island whose rivalry with China blocks it from most international bodies.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill to direct Secretary of State John Kerry to push the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to grant Taiwan observer status at its September meeting in Montreal.
Sen. Robert Menendez, the chairman of the committee, said Taiwan’s taking part would give the self-ruling island access to vital technical information and allow it to conform to new international safety standards.
“It is long overdue and a matter of international aviation safety to grant Taiwan observer status at ICAO,” Menendez, also a member of President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party said in a statement.
The bill needs approval by the full Senate, but it is likely to pass easily as it has bipartisan support. A similar measure introduced in the House of Representatives also has sponsors from both major parties.
Taiwan, which was founded by Chinese nationalists after defeat in the mainland’s civil war and has evolved into a prosperous democracy, lost its seat in the United Nations in 1971 when the General Assembly admitted Beijing.
China–which considers Taiwan a Chinese province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary—has adamantly opposed any international role or recognition that implies that the island is a separate country.
But China has not been vocal on Taiwan’s bid for observer status at the aviation organization.
Relations have warmed significantly since President Ma Ying-jeou was elected in 2008 on a platform of boosting trade and tourism across the Taiwan Strait.