SPEAKING FREELY How 'One China' risks aviation disaster
By Kent Wang
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In this globalized world, civil aviation plays a pivotal role in promoting cultural exchanges, business, trade and tourism.
As a hub for Asian flight routes, Taiwan is an important link in the global aviation network. Its participation in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) meetings and activities will greatly promote aviation safety worldwide. Taiwan has been soliciting
international support for its participation as an observer in the ICAO Assembly to be held in Montreal in September.
The ICAO endorsed a global strategy for strengthening aviation security worldwide post 9/11, stating that the success of the initiative lies in a uniform approach to establishing consistent standards. Deficiencies in any part of the system are a threat to the whole, with the ICAO position that these must be addressed through bolstering international cooperation in aviation security and harmonizing implementation of security measures.
Taiwan's civil aviation authorities have full responsibility for administering the Taipei Flight Information Region (FIR) - one of the busiest air transport hubs in Asia. To ensure the highest standards of air safety worldwide, ICAO cannot afford to exclude Taiwan from participation in its activities. Closing the Taipei FIR hole in the ICAO's global information network will benefit travel industries and economic development, which is in the ICAO's basic interests.
ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARP) form the basis of many countries' civil aviation regulations. But Taiwan is forced to obtain this information indirectly through other nations, nongovernmental organizations, neighboring FIRs and private companies, a complicated and needlessly time-consuming process. This situation impacts Taiwan's ability to smoothly implement the latest SARPs. It also means that the country must spend more time, money and effort than ICAO members on improving aviation safety and security.
More than 47 foreign airlines operate flights from Taipei to over 100 international destinations. Each year nearly 1.3 million flights passing through the 180,000 square nautical miles Taipei Flight Information Region, Taiwan is a major air transportation hub linking Asia, Europe and North America. For the sake of passenger safety and international security, the country must be brought into the ICAO fold. Taiwan is one of the busiest airspaces in the world, with 40 million travelers entering, leaving or passing through each year.
US President Barack Obama on July 12 signed into law HR 1151, an act concerning participation of Taiwan in ICAO and announced the US government's full support for Taiwan's participation in the organization. Obama also issued a statement saying that the United States fully supports Taiwan's membership in international organizations where statehood is not a requirement for membership and encourages Taiwan's meaningful participation. It's a positive development that Taiwan should not be shut out of the important international organization simply because of its special political status.
The international community will supports Taiwan taking part in ICAO because this island nation is in urgent need of acquiring ICAO SARP to ensure aviation safety. Lawmakers in several countries - including Australia, Columbia, the EU and US - had passed resolutions or laws demanding their governments take steps to support Taiwan's quest for meaningful participation in ICAO.
The ICAO is scheduled to hold its triennial meeting in September 2013 in Montreal. The time has come for allowing the government of Taiwan membership, which will ensure that it has access to the technical information it needs to conform its civil aviation practices to evolving international safety standards. In 2009 Taiwan gained observer status at the World Health Assembly, the UN World Health Organization's decision-making body, setting an example for ICAO and other UN-affiliated agencies.
The ICAO cannot hope to succeed in creating a seamless global aviation security network as long as Taiwan remains excluded - an unacceptable state of affairs in marked contrast to the organization's fundamental principle of universality. By including Taiwan in the organization, uniform standards, heightened passenger safety levels and enhanced global security can be achieved, a result in the best interests of Taiwan, the ICAO and international community. Anything less is extremely disadvantageous to the millions of passengers flying between Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries and to the entire world every year.
Aviation safety and security transcends national borders. We urged that Taiwan be allowed to attend the meeting in the interest of greater international aviation safety. Taiwan will contribute greatly to the ICAO and its bid to participate in the organization should not be turned down.
Kent Wang is the Advisory Commissioner for the Overseas Chinese Affairs Council in the United States
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