That’s how China has left Taiwan in its efforts to attend the ICAO Aviation Summit under way in Montreal
Mainland China has wrenched Taiwan’s efforts to attend the World Aviation Summit now taking place in Montreal, leaving the island high and dry – and far away from the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), in its fifth day today.
Taiwan announced September 23rd that it had not received an invitation from the IACO to the September 27 to October 7 assembly, accusing China of sabotaging its participation in a global air safety event, on the altar of political differences.
Taipei has responded with expected fury to Beijing’s insistence that it envelope its request to attend the meeting within the context of the One China Policy, which has excluded Taiwan from membership of United Nations (UN) affiliated organizations.
The island accuses the mainland of politicising an aviation safety issue. But the mainland insists any exchange regarding Taiwan’s participation has to be within the context of a ‘1992’ Consensus that recognises Beijing’s ‘One China’ policy.
Saint Lucia and other Caribbean and Latin American allies assured Taipei of their support ahead of this week’s meeting. But Beijing’s announcement last Friday that Taiwan’ participation would have to be based on acceptance of the 24-year-old Consensus threw a big wrench in Taipei’s propeller – and in mid-flight.
Taiwan showcased its civil aviation record around the world ahead of the meeting. It accommodates 14 international and four domestic routes. In 2015, Taipei provided over 1.53 million instances of air traffic control services and handled 58.16 million incoming and outgoing passengers.
Taiwan also boasted its ‘high-density routes’: as of June 2016, 56 countries or areas had signed air services agreements with Taipei; and in 2015, 74 airlines offered services to and from Taiwan, operating passenger and cargo flights on 301 routes and connecting 135 cities around the world.
Also offered as proof of its readiness to fly by the rules of the ICAO was Taiwan’s rapid level of recent airport development. Its 17 airports served 58 million passengers in 2015. The main Taoyuan International Airport - the country’s main international gateway - handled 38 million passengers in 2015.
In 2014, Taoyuan was ranked 11th and 5th, in terms of passenger and cargo volumes, respectively. It also handled 35.4 million international passengers. But Taoyuan is not the only airport shown-off by Taipei. It’s second largest, Kaohsiung International, has been positioned as the international airport serving southern Taiwan.
With such impressive credentials, Taiwan appealed to Beijing to support its bid to attend the ICAO’s Assembly – for a second time.
Taipei was represented at the last triennial summit in 2013 and had high hopes of attending again this year. It even guaranteed that it would play by Beijing’s rules, including again participating as ‘Chinese Taipei’.
Caribbean citizens who have flown to Taiwan will have no problem giving Taipei a passing grade when it comes to Civil Aviation. Hundreds of Caribbean students from Belize, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are undertaking scholarship studies in Taiwan. Taiwanese airlines (like China Airlines and Eva Air) land them in New York,from where they continue the journey home.
Each student, as well as the various Caribbean diplomats serving in Taipei, would have unreservedly recommended that Taiwan be allowed to attend the ICAO meeting. Likewise the various related Heads of State and Government and ministerial delegations that have landed at Taoyuan International.
But Beijing is on a widely different light level. It insists that when Taiwan attended in 2013 it was on the basis of Taipei’s acceptance of the One China principle governing Cross Strait ties.
Without saying so, the mainland told the island, quite loudly, that it would only get landing rights in Montreal if it did what it has so far refused to do – accept the 1992 Consensus.
As a result, Taiwan’s high hopes never actually took flight, opening-up of what became another round in the long history of Cross Strait political ping pong between the mainland and the island, which share the same culture, but don’t often see things the same.
Never mind Taiwan’s absence from the Montreal World Aviation Summit, the Sky Train at Taoyuan International Airport will continue to be used by Saint Lucian and other Caribbean students, diplomats and government officials who fly to Taiwan. (Photo courtesy: Taoyuan International Airport)