Fri, May 14, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Allies present Taiwan's bid for WHO observership

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Twelve of Taiwan's allies have submitted a proposal to the World Health Organization (WHO) to include Taiwan's bid for observer status on the agenda of the health body's annual summit in Geneva next Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

The General Committee of the World Health Assembly (WHA) must discuss whether to add Taiwan's application to the agenda now that at least one member has proposed it, ministry spokesman Richard Shih (石瑞琦) said.

Japan has promised to follow the US' lead and back Taiwan's bid, but Gary Lin (林松煥), director-general of the ministry's Department of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, said getting South Korea's support would be difficult.

Nevertheless, Lin said it was possible some of the 10 ASEAN member states would display a "neutral stance" concerning Taiwan's bid.

While ASEAN nations all adhere to the "one China" policy, some of them may not vote against Taiwan's application and some may withdraw from key sessions in the summit, according to Lin.

Most of Taiwan's allies in Latin America have pledged to speak for Taiwan's bid, the ministry reported in a legislative question-and-answer session yesterday.

Javier Hou (侯清山), director-general of the ministry's Department of Central and South American Affairs, had previously said that three or four non-allies in the region may also maintain a neutral stance regarding Taiwan's bid.

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂), Department of Health Director-General Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) and Tung Kuo-yu (董國猷), director general of the ministry's Department of International Organization, are in Europe making last-ditch efforts for the country's application.

Jich Wen-chich (介文汲), Tung's deputy, said the ministry was assessing China's likely response.

Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi (吳儀) led the Chinese delegation to the Geneva summit last year.

"We still don't know who will be leading the Chinese delegation this time," Jich said.

Noting that all of Taiwan's allies will vote for the country's bid in the WHA, Jich said it was still difficult to calculate how many countries may vote in favor of Taiwan.

Five legislators and the Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan, a long-time private lobby group for the country's WHA bid, will be departing for Geneva for the assembly tonight.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Bill Sun (孫國華), one of the legislative group, expressed concerns about the WHO's banning Taiwanese journalists from covering summit events.

The legislative group and other members in the Taiwanese delegation will need to apply for permits to listen to the assembly proceedings in the public gallery.

"We are not sure whether we will be granted the permits," Sun said.

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