The United States remains committed to supporting Taiwan's bid to take part in an international aviation organization, which could raise tensions with China.
"In keeping with our one-China policy, we support Taiwan's membership in international organizations that do not require statehood. In organizations that require statehood for membership, the United States supports Taiwan's meaningful participation," State Department East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau spokesperson Grace Choi said Thursday.
Delegates and observers from about 200 countries and international organizations will meet next week to discuss aviation safety issues at a gathering of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal, Canada.
Taiwan is not officially recognized as a country by the United Nations because of longstanding objections from China. Beijing routinely tries to block Taiwan's attempts to join international organizations, believing that such actions could build support for its aspirations as a state. Beijing sees Taiwan as part of China.
The U.S. State Department said aviation safety, security and efficiency are matters of global importance, and all interested stakeholders can play a positive role in ensuring those standards.
Lawmakers voice support
ICAO was established in 1944 with a mission to set international standards for air navigation safety and to improve global air transport. China and the U.S. are members.
Some U.S. lawmakers had voiced strong support for Taiwan's participation in ICAO.
"As East Asia's busiest airspace, it is without question that Taiwan should have access to the latest technologies and standards in civil aviation safety. It is in the best interest of public safety," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a Republican from California, in a recent statement.
Congressman Royce and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sponsored legislation three years ago that "directs the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to obtain observer status for Taiwan" at the ICAO Assembly.
That legislation became public law in 2013.
Complaints from China
Taiwanese officials said Taipei has not received the invitation from ICAO.
Analysts said it represents another form of pressure that China is trying to exert on Taiwan's public and democratically-elected leaders.
While Washington has welcomed Taipei's "meaningful participation" in international organizations where statehood is not a requirement, that support is drawing complaints from Beijing.
Chinese officials said the precondition for Taiwan's participation in international organizations is to "recognize one China principle."
"It certainly hurts the perception of some Taiwan people about China. It will be a delicate decision for Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen," said Richard Bush, director of the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution.
"As far as the bigger picture is concerned, what is needed now is an incremental and reciprocal process of trust-building in which both sides make efforts and avoid moves that undermine trust," Bush told VOA on Thursday.
‘Responsible global citizen’
Li Kexin, Chinese minister to the U.S., was quoted by media at an Embassy event earlier in September as saying "we really care about the fortunes of the Taiwanese people." He said Beijing had "opened several channels to let the Taiwanese people be made aware of information that they should have in order to protect their interests."
State Department Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary Kurt Tong said Taiwan's participation in the International Civil Aviation Organization has "helped make the world a safer place."
"Taiwan is a responsible global citizen whose capabilities can have a major impact on the region," said Tong in a Washington event in March. "Even when Taiwan is barred from international organizations, it often voluntarily adheres to international laws and standards. The United States seeks to support Taiwan's membership in international organizations where statehood is not a requirement."
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.