Wed, May 15, 2002 - Page 1 News List

US expresses support for observer bid

MAKE NO MISTAKE A US official said in a talk on the sidelines of the WHA meet that the US will not shrink from supporting Taiwan's efforts to join the body

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

Taiwan's WHO bid received a boost yesterday as the US and Japan both voiced support for Taiwan's participation in the international health organization.

The Secretary of US Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson expressed support for Taiwan's efforts to gain observer status to the World Health Assembly (WHA), saying the US would not shrink from taking a public stance on the controversial issue.

"America's work for a healthy world also cuts across political lines. That is why my government supports Taiwan's efforts to gain observership status to the World Health Assembly," Thompson said during a luncheon talk under the invitation of the World Medical Association (WMA).

"We know that this is a controversial issue, but we do not shrink from taking a public stance on it," said Thompson in front of a roomful of medical professionals as well as health ministers from various countries at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva.

"The people of Taiwan, like everybody else, deserve the same level of public health of citizens of every nation on earth, and we support them in their efforts in achieving it," Thompson added.

The meeting took place concurrently with the week-long annual meeting of the WHA, the WHO's highest decision-making body.

Department of Health Head Lee Ming-liang (李明亮) said Thomp-son's statement is a constructive step toward Taiwan's bid despite the fact that the WHA on Monday decided not to include Taiwan's application on the assembly agenda's for a sixth year in a row.

"His statement this year here in Geneva is much better than what he said here last year. Last year he only said he supported Taiwan `playing a role' in WHO activities during a question-and-answer session in a local press club in Geneva," Lee said.

"This year he spelled out his government's stance on supporting Taiwan to gain observer status here in Geneva," Lee said.

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kao (高英茂) said that Taiwan had hoped that Washington would inform Taipei in advance of Thompson's talk, but the US State Department has apparently taken a rather cautious move by instructing the US delegation not to do so.

Lee said the US had told Taiwan to take a gradual approach to the country's WHO bid because the US concluded that it was not conceivable for Taiwan to gain enough votes from WHO member countries to support its bid.

Taiwan has hoped that Thompson would express US support for Taipei's bid during one of the WHA meetings in Geneva, such as the US health minister's formal address during the general discussion of the WHA meeting yesterday.

But as of press time yesterday, Thompson had not done so.

Meanwhile, J. B. Brunet, a high-ranking French official, told Kao that France's statement during the WHA steering committee's closed-door meeting on Taiwan's case on Monday adhered to the European nation's "one China" policy.

Meanwhile, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda reportedly expressed Japan's support for Taiwan's bid.

Fukuda said at a press conference held after a routine Cabinet meeting that since Taiwan is geographically close to Japan, the Japanese government is interested in any efforts that would help raise Taiwan's standard of health care.

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