(CNA) — A senior official from Taiwan’s Caribbean ally St. Lucia on Tuesday expressed support for Taipei’s participation at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) during the ongoing ICAO Assembly in Montreal, Canada, leading to a protest by Chinese delegation.
During the plenary session of the 40th ICAO Assembly on Tuesday, St. Lucian Minister for Physical Planning Herod Stanislas said Taiwan should be entitled to attend the triennial meeting as an observer as its exclusion is contrary to the United Nations-affiliated body’s objective of a “seamless sky.”
“Saint Lucia, therefore, requests that this assembly, in the interest of global aviation safety and security, consider granting observer status to Republic of China (Taiwan) to attend the ICAO Assembly and to participate in such organs of the ICAO as the council sees fit,” he noted.
The St. Lucian official’s address promptly led to a protest from the Chinese delegation.
The head of the delegation reiterated Beijing’s stance that there is only one China in the world, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and Taiwan is part of its territory.
The delegation head continued to cite U.N. General Assembly resolution 2758, and ICAO’s own resolution, arguing that there is no legal basis for Taiwan to be included in ICAO events as it is not a sovereign state.
Passed on Oct. 25, 1971 during the 26th session of the U.N. General Assembly, resolution 2758 recognizes the PRC as “the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations.”
Asked to comment on the episode, Winston Chen, Taiwan’s top envoy to Canada, where the ICAO headquarters is located, expressed regret over the Chinese delegation’s response.
He told CNA in a phone interview that Taiwan has never been part of the PRC nor does U.N. General Assembly resolution 2758 say Taiwan is part of the PRC.
Only Taiwan’s democratically elected government can represent its 23 million people, he stressed.
He said other countries’ interactions with China should not be made at the expense of sacrificing the safety of their airline passengers, which also includes Chinese nationals.
He reiterated the government’s position that Taiwan’s exclusion from the ICAO has created a gap in the global aviation network and is contrary to ICAO’s own goal of creating a “seamless sky.”
The ICAO is the U.N. agency responsible for establishing worldwide aviation policies, with the ICAO Assembly serving as the organization’s sovereign body that meets once every three years.
This year, 193 ICAO member states have been invited to participate in the week-long meeting from Sept. 24 to Oct. 4.
Though not a member of the U.N., Taiwan has sought to take part in the activities of U.N.-affiliated organizations but faces major Chinese obstruction.
The last time Taiwan attended the ICAO Assembly was in 2013 when it was represented by Shen Chi (沈啟), then the director-general of the Civil Aeronautics Administration under the previous Kuomintang (KMT) administration which had better relations with Beijing.
That marked Taipei’s first involvement at the ICAO assembly since losing its seat at the U.N. to Beijing in 1971.
Cross-Taiwan Strait relations have cooled since President Tsai Ing-wen took office on May 20, 2016, and opposition from Beijing is widely believed to be the main reason behind the ICAO decision not to invite Taiwan that year.
Beijing has taken a harder line against Taiwan because Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party administration refuses to accept that Taiwan and China are part of one China as a political precondition for cross-strait dialogue and exchanges.
Acceptance of that framework, known as the “1992 consensus,” underpinned improved ties between Taiwan and China when the KMT was in power from 2008 to 2016.