Interpol Observer Status for Taiwan

Continuing its efforts to enable Taiwan to overcome political obsacles to gain access to vital health and security-related information from international organizations, the United States government has committed to helping Taiwan participate as an observer in meetings of the International Criminal Police Organization, more commonly known as Interpol.

On March 18, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law that directs the U.S. Secretary of State to develop a strategy to “endorse and obtain observer status for Taiwan in appropriate international organizations, including Interpol,” and to send a report to Congress outlining the strategy within 90 days. The bill, which passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives without any votes in opposition, also requires the State Department to communicate with the Interpol office in Washington to officially request such observer status for Taiwan and to actively urge Interpol member states to support participation for Taiwan as an observer.

Pressure from Beijing has kept Taiwan out of most international organizations, especially in cases where statehood is a condition for membership. Through its National Police Administration, Taiwan was a full-fledged member of Interpol from 1964 until 1984 when the organization terminated its membership in order to welcome the People’s Republic of China.

The text of the new U.S. law makes a compelling case for ending Taiwan’s exclusion from Interpol: “Non-membership prevents Taiwan from gaining access to Interpol’s I-24/7 global police communications system, which provides real-time information on criminals and global criminal activities. Taiwan is relegated to second-hand information from friendly nations, including the United States [and] is unable to swiftly share information on criminals and suspicious activity with the international community, leaving a huge void in the global crime-fighting efforts and leaving the entire world at risk.”

At a time of “ongoing international threats, including international networks of terrorism,” the text says, “the ability of police authorities to coordinate, preempt, and act swiftly and in unison is an essential element of crisis prevention and response.”

AmCham Taipei appreciates the support for the safety and well-being of the people of Taiwan shown by members of the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration. The Interpol initiative follows two previous successful efforts by the United States to widen Taiwan’s access to the information channels of relevant international organizations. Beginning in 2009, Taiwan has been able to attend the annual meetings of the World Health Assembly as an observer, and in 2013 its aviation officials for the first time were invited as special guests to attend the assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which meets every three years.

Like health and air-safety matters, anti-crime and anti-terrorism concerns transcend borders and should not be used for political leverage. Hopefully, the U.S. bid to obtain observership in Interpol for Taiwan will win the cooperation and support of the other members of the organization, including the PRC.