WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Barack Obama on Friday signed a bill which backs Taiwan's participation in a United Nations (UN) aviation agency, despite China's opposition to any recognition for the island that hints at statehood.
"The United States fully supports Taiwan's membership in international organisations where statehood is not a requirement for membership," Mr Obama said in a statement.
The president added that his administration encouraged Taiwan's "meaningful participation, as appropriate, in organisations where its membership is not possible." Mr Obama signed the bill the day after the end of strategic economic and security dialogue talks between top United States (US) and Chinese officials in Washington.
He said that the measure was consistent with the "One China" policy which governs the US approach toward China and Taiwan.
The bill directs Secretary of State John Kerry to push the International Civil Aviation Organisation to grant Taiwan observer status at its September meeting in Montreal.
Taiwan, which was founded by Chinese nationalists after defeat in the mainland's civil war and has evolved into a prosperous democracy, lost its seat in the United Nations in 1971 when the General Assembly admitted Beijing.
China - which considers Taiwan a Chinese province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary - has adamantly opposed any international role or recognition that implies that the island is a separate country.
But it has not been vocal on Taiwan's bid for observer status at the aviation organisation.
Relations have warmed significantly since President Ma Ying-jeou was elected in 2008 on a platform of boosting trade and tourism across the Taiwan Strait.