Taiwan Observer Status in the International Civil Aviation Organization

Floor Speech

By:  Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Date: Sept. 11, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I will make some remarks, and then I will also yield back the remainder of our time.

I rise in strong support of this important resolution which calls upon the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, to grant meaningful participation for Taiwan.

Is there any doubt in a post-September 11th world that air traffic safety constitutes one of the first lines of defense against those who would do harm to the United States or to our friends and allies? Are not the people of Taiwan deserving of the same level of protection against air assault as provided to the other peoples whose governments participate in ICAO?

The Taipei flight information region, under the jurisdiction of Taiwan, covers an airspace of 176,000 square nautical miles. Taiwan's main international airport is recognized as the eighth largest in the world in cargo traffic and the 18th in the number of international passengers who make use of its services.

Can there be any doubt, therefore, that Taiwan, which provides air safety control services for well over 1,350,000 flights annually needs meaningful participation in the international organization responsible for air safety and security?

Beijing, like some haughty overlord, condescendingly informed Taipei and the U.N. system in the year 2009 that it would allow, at least temporarily, Taiwan's participation in the World Health Assembly. Meaningful participation in international organizations for Taiwan represents too important an issue to be determined only by the whims of Beijing.

It is time to open the door to Taiwan's constructive and meaningful participation in ICAO, and that time is now.

The State Department, as this resolution suggests, should assume a leading role in providing an action plan to ensure that this happened as quickly as possible. We owe this, Mr. Speaker, to the people of Taiwan. We owe this to ensure as well for the air safety of those American passengers flying over the skies of the western Pacific.

And here I am not speaking just in theoretical terms, Mr. Speaker. Let us not forget that it was less than three decades ago when, due to a tragic confusion in air communications, a Soviet military fighter shot down a Korean Air Lines civilian flight as it left western Pacific and flew inadvertently over Soviet territory. As we know, this resulted in the death of all 269 people on board, including a Member of this House, Congressman Larry McDonald of Georgia's Seventh District. The Congressman was traveling to Seoul to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the United States-South Korea Mutual Defense Treaty.

So air safety control is, therefore, a very serious matter. Taiwan needs meaningful participation in ICAO not only for the safety and security in the air of its own citizens but also for all of the peoples of the vibrant Asia Pacific region.

ICAO will be holding its 12th Air Navigations Conference in November, and Taiwan should be, must be represented there in Montreal.

So, Mr. Speaker, I urge that my colleagues join Mr. Berman and me in expressing their overwhelming support for this important resolution.

With that, I yield back the balance of our time.

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