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To secure seat at world table, Taiwan pushes past Beijing but tactic seen as risky

Taiwan’s latest strategy of seeking a global presence while bypassing mainland moves to thwart it seem to have gained some success.

A delegation from the island held bilateral talks with a dozen countries on the sidelines of the latest triennial International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Assembly in Canada, despite being blocking from official participation.

However, analysts said it remained to be seen whether such a strategy would be effective when Taipei attempted to attend November’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Morocco and an Interpol convention in Indonesia.

Sorry, you’re not invited: UN aviation agency snubs Taiwan in sign of pressure from Beijing

Taiwan was able to attend the previous meeting of the ICAO – a specialised UN agency that manages the administration and governance of international civil aviation standards and practices – as a “special guest” three years ago.

However, it was not invited this year – likely because of pressure from Beijing. Nevertheless, the government of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party still sent a delegation to the event.

Ho Shu-ping, deputy director of Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration, returned to Taiwan on Monday after a six-day visit to Montreal, where the ICAO held its meeting.

Ho’s seven-member delegation attracted wide sympathy for not being able to attend. “Thanks to the support of countries friendly to us, we were able to hold talks with relevant authorities and those in charge of aviation affairs,” she told reporters after returning home.

Beijing cuts Ma-era cross-strait communication channel with Taiwan

She said the delegation had “sensed warm support” from these countries and they “all agree that aviation safety is without borders and believe that flight safety should never be affected by any factors – including politics”.

When Taiwan last participated in 2013, then-president Ma Ying-jeou of the mainland-friendly Kuomintang was employing a policy of engaging with Beijing.

At the time Beijing said Taiwan had been invited because Ma’s government had acknowledged the “1992 consensus”. This is a tacit understanding reached in 1992 that allows the sides to hold talks as long as they both support the “one-China” principle, while each can have its own interpretation of what China stands for.

Ma’s successor, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, has refused to acknowledge the consensus and called for talks with Beijing over the participation issue, but Beijing has said that without the acknowledgement, there would be no talks.

Tsai issued a letter to her DPP members in September saying “we must do all we can to resist the Chinese pressure and develop relations with other countries”.

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Wang Kung-yi, professor of international relations at Tamkang University in Taiwan, said this was the reason Tsai sent a delegation to Montreal.

However, he said such a strategy could not solve the root of the problem. Trying to increase Taiwan’s global presence would be tantamount to the island becoming an official part of international society, which Beijing would not allow, he said.

Former DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui said the Tsai government needed to carefully evaluate which international organisations Taipei needed to participate in, so it could avoid wasting effort in trying to attend global events where rejection would serve only to humiliate the island.