Diplomatically isolated Taiwan had a chance to send a delegation to listen in at the International Civil Aviation Organization’s annual assembly. The UN group, in place since World War II, brings together 191 governments to agree on the best commercial airline practices for flight safety, efficiency and clean air. Taiwan isn’t a member of the body, better known as ICAO, because it left the United Nations in 1971. Taiwan’s giant, globally influential political rival, China, won’t let Taiwan back in. China sees self-ruled Taiwan as part of its own territory, not a state that’s eligible to join UN agencies. China’s pressure through its more than 170 diplomatic allies, compared to Taiwan’s 22, killed the ICAO bid this month, analysts widely suspect.
A place with so many flights learns ways of managing them, especially after problems come up. Plane crashes in Taiwan in 2014 and 2015 prompted lengthy reviews, for example. And Taiwan’s airport authorities have a quick knack for knowing just when to stop and restart flights when typhoons hit, as shown three times this month. Whatever Taiwan has learned about aviation will be lost internationally, notes Alan Romberg, director of the East Asia program at U.S. think tank The Stimson Center. “Taiwan is situated at a pivotal location, and the Taipei Flight Information Region administered by Taiwan plays an important role in air transport in EastAsia,” the island’s foreign ministry said in a statement Friday after the ICAO Council president declined an invitation to the assembly. “Only through continued participation in the ICAO Assembly and related meetings will Taiwan be in a position to…contribute to international aviation safety and development.
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