Sat, Mar 14, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Taipei, Beijing to discuss WHA, Ma says

UNDISCLOSED LOCATION Saying China ‘cannot swallow Taiwan now,’ the president gave an assurance that talks about WHA observer status would be handled carefully

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The government will conduct negotiations with China at an undisclosed location outside of Taiwan next month about the nation’s bid for observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA), President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said in an interview published yesterday.

“We will start formal negotiations on the issue next month at an overseas location, and not through the Straits Exchange Foundation [SEF] or the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait [ARATS],” Ma said on Thursday in an interview with the Chinese-­language United Daily News.

In the interview, which was published yesterday, Ma said his administration had been putting great effort into obtaining observer status at the WHA in May, and hopefully the situation would change for the better.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi (王毅) told CCTV on Wednesday that he was “cautiously optimistic” on Taiwan’s bid to join the WHA as an observer.

Declining to say where the negotiations would be held, Ma told the United Daily News the government would “handle the matter carefully.”

The president defended his policy of a “diplomatic truce” with China and flexible diplomacy and said he was confident that these policies were having a positive impact on cross-strait relations.

“[Beijing] cannot swallow Taiwan now, and why wouldn’t they give us room to breathe?” Ma said.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said yesterday the government would release more detailed information about the WHA negotiations at an appropriate time.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had no comment on the location of the talks with Beijing, ministry spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) said yesterday.

He said the ministry was actively seeking international support for this year’s bid for WHA observer status.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) said yesterday in a news conference ending a nine-day session of China’s parliament in Beijing: “In my government work report I made it clear that we will make fair and reasonable arrangements for Taiwan’s participation in international organizations that concern Taiwan’s interests through consultations.”

“We are willing to have consultations and coordination on this,” he said.

The WHA, the decision-making body of the WHO, is scheduled to meet from May 18 to May 27 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Taiwan has been seeking to re-enter the organization since 1997, but has been blocked by Beijing. In 2005, Beijing signed a memorandum of understanding with the WHO restricting Taiwan’s communication with the body.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JENNY W. HSU AND REUTERS

See CHINESE on page 3

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