In a rare display of bipartisanship in politically polarized Washington, 392 members of the House of Representatives voted in early November to pass H.R.1853 that would promote Taiwan's participation as an observer in Interpol. The bill must now go before the Senate for approval.
This legislation has come at a critical time to expand Taiwan’s role in the international community and improve the safety and ease of travel for people traveling to and from Taiwan. It will directs the president to develop a strategy to obtain observer status for Taiwan in the Interpol and at other related activities and urge Interpol members to support Taiwan's observer status and participation.
Rep. Matt SalmonMatthew (Matt) James SalmonThe Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Former Rep. Matt Salmon launches gubernatorial bid in Arizona On The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP MORE (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, introduced the legislation. “Taiwan’s observer status would promote stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region and assist Taiwan in protecting the safety of its citizens by combating criminal activity through access to Interpol’s global police communications systems,” Salmon said.
At a recent hearing, House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) noted that despite being a major U.S. trade partner, Taiwan has to rely on delayed, second-hand information about global criminal activities. He said that it made Taiwan “needlessly vulnerable” to criminals.
Interpol is the world’s largest international police organization, with the role to enable police around the world to work together to make the world a safer place. However, among the 190 member nations of the Interpol, Taiwan is absent, despite the fact that the island is a net contributor to international law enforcement.
Taiwan has a great deal to offer the international community in a vast number of areas. Its prolonged exclusion from the Interpol serves neither its interests nor those of the global community. Taipei has actively sought U.S. and international support to expand its international space, and has initiated pragmatic and constructive dialogue with Beijing, achieving significant results. In 2009, member countries of the United Nations for the first time invited Taiwan to formally participate in the World Health Assembly as an observer.
In July 2013, the House of Representatives and the Senate each passed resolutions supporting Taiwan’s International Civil Aviation Organization bid and the two chambers moved quickly to pass the bill. President Obama than signed into law H.R. 1151 and announced the U.S. government’s full support for Taiwan’s participation in the organization. In Sept. 2013, Taiwan was invited to attend the 38th Session of the Assembly of the ICAO as a guest of the president of the Council.
Taiwan’s participation in these two bodies is of great symbolic meaning. The unprecedented positive gesture from Congress has given Taiwan hope that continuous support from the Congress would lead to Taiwan’s substantial participation in Interpol.
With the rise of terrorism throughout the globe, not allowing Taiwan independent and easy access to Interpol is an unnecessary and dangerous risk. Taiwan currently relies on the U.S. and other countries to informally pass along Interpol information on relevant criminal activity. Taiwan’s observer status would promote stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region and assist Taiwan in protecting the safety of its citizens by combating criminal activity through access to Interpol’s global police communications systems.
Taiwan should be permitted access to Interpol’s network so that it can both contribute to and benefit from what would be a more comprehensive fight against international criminals across the globe. The United States must continue to strengthen, expand and improve its solid and multi-sided unofficial relations with Taiwan. Now is the time for Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to follow the lead of their House counterparts and pass this bill.
Wang is a research fellow at the Institute for Taiwan-America Studies who publishes frequently on the Taiwan issue in Sino-American relations, as well as other topics on East Asian international politics and regional security.