Mon, May 17, 2004 - Page 1 News List

WHA: Taiwan pins its hopes on allies

HELP NEEDED The World Health Assembly is slated to vote today on placing Taiwan's application for observer status on its agenda, with the votes of countries that don't recognize Taiwan becoming the most crucial

By Joy Su and Ho Tien-li  /  STAFF REPORTERS , IN GENEVA

Two Aboriginal members of a Taiwanese delegation to the World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva show leaflets supporting the nation's bid to become an observer of the health body.

PHOTO: WANG MIN-WEI, TAIPEI TIMES

With the World Health Assembly (WHA) slated to decide whether Taiwan is granted observer status at the international health body today, Taiwanese delegates are counting on diplomatic allies, the US and Japan to throw support behind the application.

Though the WHA has reversed its previous decision that Taiwanese reporters would not be allowed to enter the WHA, the chances for Taiwan's bid to succeed do not look encouraging.

Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡), director-general of the Taipei Cultural and Economic Mission in Geneva, told Taiwanese reporters yesterday that the UN had decided in a last-minute policy u-turn that Taiwanese journalists working with non-government media agencies would be issued press passes.

With the EU slated to vote against placing Taiwan's application on the assembly agenda, the focus has been turned on how Japan and other diplomatic countries will vote.

The US has already agreed to vote for Taiwan if the application is subject to a vote during the assembly meeting slated for this afternoon.

According to Yang May-sing (楊黃美幸), the chairperson of the Research and Planning Committee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), whether Japan will vote for Taiwan is a decision that will not be clear until the last 12 hours leading up to the assembly vote.

However, DPP Legislator Tony Jian (簡肇棟) revealed that MOFA officials had confirmed that there was a 99.9 percent chance that Japan would vote in favor of adding Taiwan's application to the agenda.

In addition, Yang said that aside from Taiwan's 25 diplomatic allies, MOFA was working on garnering the votes of a few South Pacific nations and Asian nations despite a lack of official ties.

"Because they are small nations with diplomatic ties with China, it will be hard for them to vote for Taiwan," Yang said.

The WHA will start today with the General Committee meeting to reconfirm the provisional agenda that was set in January.

While Taiwan's application has not yet been placed on the agenda, 12 nations have together proposed adding Taiwan's bid as a supplementary item.

The only time Taiwan was added to the agenda during the General Committee meeting was during Taiwan's first attempt at entry to the World Health Organization in 1997.

While chances are that Taiwan will not be granted placement on the agenda, the agenda can be challenged during the health assembly slated to take place today.

Aside from the assembly vote, however, the General Committee meeting and the health assembly both provide opportunities for delegates supporting Taiwan's bid to speak on Taiwan's behalf.

According to Yang, Gambia and Chad are slated to speak for Taiwan to challenge the exclusion of Taiwan's application from the agenda.

In past assembly meetings, two nations would speak on Taiwan's behalf while China and another nation would put forth China's stance on the issue.

However, Yang warned that with a Pakistani delegate holding the position of president of the health assembly, it would be difficult to guarantee that Taiwan's supporters would be given a chance to speak.

Pakistan was one of the nations that spoke against Taiwan during last year's WHA. The assembly president presides over the assembly and has the power to decide the amount of time allocated to each speaker.

In addition, MOFA is hoping that the US delegate, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, will speak on Taiwan's behalf three times. Thompson could speak first during the General Committee, then later during the Health Assembly's general discussion.

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