Safe skies, a critical concern in the modern era, especially after the attacks of 9-11, can only be assured through internationally uniform standards, multinational sharing of security protocols, and the timely exchange and dissemination of international air travel information. These functions are performed through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and, to make the skies even safer, Taiwan, a key air hub in the Asia Pacific region, needs to play a role in ICAO. Fortunately, Taiwan has the full support of the current U.S. Administration and Congress to make that happen.

Taiwan is responsible for the airspace known as Taipei Flight Information Region (Taipei FIR), which covers 180,000 square nautical miles and provides services for nearly 1.53 million controlled flights carrying 58 million travelers annually. This number is equal to 18% of the entire U.S. population. In 2015, Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport was ranked as the sixth largest globally in terms of international air freight trafficand 11th largest in terms of international passengers, according to the Airports Council International (ACI). Taiwan is connected to 135 cities around the globe via 301 scheduled passenger and freight routes.


Since Taiwan’s skies cover some of the busiest airspace in East Asia, aviation safety there must be maintained at the highest standard at all times to ensure regional and global mobility and economic development. This can best be accomplished if Taiwan participates fully in ICAO.

ICAO was established by the Convention on International Civil Aviation on Dec. 7, 1944. Its main function is to set international standards for air navigation and to improve global air transport so that people can enjoy safer and more efficient air travel in the modern world. In order to safeguard regional and global aviation safety, having a continuing role for Taiwan in the activities of ICAO is critically important. ICAO’s next meeting is later this month, and Taiwan aspires to participate in a professional and constructive manner.

Back in 2013, legislation sponsored by Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week Sanders drops bid to block Biden's Israel arms sale Sanders push to block arms sale to Israel doomed in Senate MORE (D-N.J.) and Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama. It stated that meaningful participation by Taiwan as an observer in the meetings and activities of ICAO will contribute both to the fulfillment of ICAO's overarching mission and to the success of a global strategy to address aviation security threats based on effective international cooperation. Earlier this year, the current U.S. Administration continued to reaffirm its support for Taiwan’s participation in ICAO, as well as in other international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). We appreciate the strong support from the Obama administration and our friends on Capitol Hill in our bid to join the ICAO family. We have been working closely with the U.S. and like-minded nations to achieve this and urge all other ICAO members to lend a helping hand.

In September 2013, the Director General of Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) was invited by the President of the ICAO Council to attend the 38th ICAO Assembly in Montreal, Canada. It was the first participation in 42 years, and was widely welcomed and deemed consistent with ICAO’s goals by most of its members. It deserves to happen again when the triennial ICAO Assembly convenes in Montreal from Sept. 27 to Oct. 7. Taiwan’s attendance will not only enable it to stay up-to-date with international safety regulations but also assist the Assembly in ensuring the safe, secure and sustainable development of international civil aviation.

Not having Taiwan in the coming ICAO Assembly, on the other hand, would be detrimental to the interests of all parties concerned. It would also not serve ICAO’s agenda of holding comprehensive discussions on safety, navigation services, security, environmental protection, and economic matters. All of these critical issues, plus ICAO’s stated goal of “a seamless sky,” demand Taiwan’s attendance. Taiwan’s meaningful participation would benefit the aviation industry in the Asia-Pacific region and the world as a whole. This is the time; let there be no further delay.

Stanley Kao is Representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.