WASHINGTON President Barack Obama on Friday signed legislation expressing U.S. support for Taiwan's campaign to join the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations agency that promotes safe air travel, the White House said.
Obama's endorsement of the bill, which easily passed both chambers of the U.S. Congress in June, risks angering China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan and generally opposes the island's efforts to join international organizations.
"The United States fully supports Taiwan's membership in international organizations where statehood is not a requirement for membership and encourages Taiwan's meaningful participation, as appropriate, in organizations where its membership is not possible," Obama said in a statement.
The statement said the Obama administration viewed the legislation "to be consistent with the 'one China' policy of the United States, which remains unchanged."
China claims Taiwan as a wayward province, though the two sides have been governed separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war. China insists that its diplomatic partners recognize only one China, with its capital in Beijing.
There was no immediate response from China, which on Thursday wrapped up two days of high-level security and economic talks with the United States in Washington, during which the two countries pledges to deepen their economic partnership and maintain productive relations.
In 2009, Taiwan gained observer status at the World Health Assembly, the policy-making body for the U.S. World Health Organization, as "Chinese Taipei," the name the island uses in Olympic competition.
Taiwan's ICAO bid is expected to be decided when the agency holds its assembly in Montreal in September.
(Reporting by Paul Eckert and Steve Holland; Editing by Eric Walsh)