Sat, Jan 24, 2009 - Page 1 News List

US will back Taiwan's bid for more space: Clinton

By Nadia Tsao  /  STAFF REPORTER

The administration of US President Barack Obama will continue to support Taiwan’s efforts to gain more international space, including becoming an observer at the World Health Assembly (WHA), US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a recent statement.

The statement was made in response to an inquiry from senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Johnny Isakson of Georgia on Clinton’s stance on Taiwan’s WHA bid if she was confirmed as Washington’s top diplomat.

Taiwan was one of the WHO’s original members, but had to forfeit its membership in 1979 after the nation gave up its seat at the UN in 1971. Since 1997, Taiwan has made repeated attempts to re-enter the health body, but each time it has been rejected because of Beijing’s interference.

Since 2004, the US and Japan have publicly shown their support for Taiwan’s bid to become a WHA observer. It has been the subject of much speculation that Taiwan will finally get its wish this May as Beijing is expected to loosen its grip following the recent warming in cross-strait ties.

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control announced the WHO had agreed to include Taiwan in the International Health Regulations 2005, a global health framework focused on disease surveillance and reporting and had asked the nation to recommend a “point of contact in Taipei.”

Sources close to the two senators said Clinton expressed her approval of both President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) for capitalizing on the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) March presidential election victory to improve cross-strait ties on economic and security issues.

Clinton said under such circumstances and within the realm of the so-called “one China” policy, she believed it would be appropriate for Washington to support Taiwan’s efforts to gain more international space, such as the bid to become a WHA observer.

She also stressed that it was crucial that Beijing show the Taiwanese people that Ma’s pragmatic and non-confrontational approach toward China would glean positive results.

Taiwan’s continual alienation at the WHO would result in public health issues, she said, adding that “just like you, I believe the US should work with Taiwan to correct the situation.”

Congressional members said Clinton also answered favorably questions from Louisiana Senator David Vitter and South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint on strengthening communications with high ranking Taiwanese officials and whether she would maintain the commitment to Taiwan’s security as stated in the Taiwan Relations Act by continuing to sell arms.

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