Sun, Apr 24, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Beijing unlikely to change its stance on bid to join WHO

By Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite mounting pressure on China after it passed the bellicose "Anti-Secession" Law last month, Beijing is unlikely to budge in its opposition to Taiwan's ninth bid to enter the World Health Organization (WHO) next month, political analysts said in a forum in Taipei yesterday.

"There is no reason to suspect that China will extend its goodwill beyond the legal framework of the Anti-Secession Law," said Lai I-chung (賴怡忠), the director of foreign policy studies at Taiwan Thinktank.

"Because the law codifies the `one China' principle and reduces Taiwan to an unresolved legacy from the civil war between the Chinese Nationalist Party and Communist Party, there is little leeway for China to be Taiwan-friendly," said Lai.

Although optimism over Taiwan's bid for WHO observership seemed to be brewing among local politicians, academics cautioned that Taiwan's disputed status still remains a burning fuse to a possible diplomatic explosion between the countries at the World Health Assembly convention next month.

"At the heart of the problem is Taiwan's debated national sovereignty," said Li Ming-juinn (李明峻), a researcher at the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University.

"It is because of its unrecognized status that Taiwan has to try consolidating its sovereignty through participation in international organizations, such as the WHO or the World Trade Organization," Lee said. "As soon as Taiwan's bid to join the WHO becomes a political issue, China won't give in."

It is also unrealistic to count on international pressure to create Chinese goodwill during this WHA round, scholars said.

The EU -- one of the key members that could make or break Taiwan's bid to join the WHO -- is also unlikely to shift its stance and support Taiwan this year, experts said.

"You can't expect a large intergovernmental organization like the EU to swerve from its set policy within a year," said Wu Chih-chung (吳志中), the secretary-general of the EU Study Association in Taiwan and an associate professor at Soochow University.

Last year, the EU voted to keep Taiwan's observership bid off the agenda on the grounds that Taiwan is not a country recognized by the UN. It issued a speech afterwards urging WHO member countries to include Taiwan in a global network of disease prevention.

"If the EU can make a more neutral gesture by abstaining from voting, it would be viewed as a breakthrough," Wu said.

In a similar vein, Lai said that the probability of the EU openly acknowledging Taiwan is low.

"Since the EU has based its discourse on international laws on which Taiwan can gain little foothold, there is little chance that we can turn the tables," Lai said.

"Because the tensions between China and the EU are running high now, it becomes ever harder to say that the EU is willing to risk ruffling China's feathers further by openly backing Taiwan's bid," Wu said.

EU-China relations began to fray after the EU decided to postpone the lifting of an arms-sale embargo against China and mulled adopting protectionist measures to curb a flood of Chinese textile imports that followed the end of a global quota system.

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