Wed, May 08, 2019 - Page 1 News List

US speaks up as Beijing blocks WHA invitation

BLOCKED AGAIN:Former US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs Daniel Russel said Beijing should adopt a more flexible position

Staff writer, with CNA, Washington and Taipei

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, third right, and other officials prepare for the opening of the World Health Assembly at the European headquarters of the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 21 last year.

Photo: EPA-EFE

The US Department of State on Monday reiterated its support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the international community after China again blocked an invitation to Taiwan to attend the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland.

“We support Taiwan’s membership in international organizations that do not require statehood,” a department spokesperson said in an e-mail reply to an inquiry. “In organizations that require statehood for membership, the US supports Taiwan’s meaningful participation. This includes the ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization], Interpol [the International Criminal Police Organization], the WHO and the more than 60 international organizations in which Taiwan participates.”

The 72nd WHA, the decisionmaking body of the WHO, is to meet in Geneva from May 20 to 28. Taiwan had hoped to attend as an observer, as it did from 2009 to 2016, but it did not receive an invitation from the WHO by Monday’s registration deadline.

China decided not to agree to Taiwan’s participation in this year’s WHA because of its “one China” principle, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) said on Monday.

The department spokesperson said they believed that to be a mistake, adding that Taiwan has, for example, made important contributions to the fight against the Islamic State, humanitarian relief in Venezuela and combating Ebola.

Taiwan should be a part of gatherings such as the WHA, former US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs Daniel Russel said at a forum in Washington on Monday.

It is not only in the interest of the US and Taiwanese, but in the interest of the region and the world for Taiwan to be able to play an appropriate role in contributing to regional and global well-being, he said, adding that Beijing should adopt a more flexible position.

In Taipei, the government on Monday condemned China for what it described as “barbaric behavior,” while Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) yesterday said that leaving Taiwan out was a mistake.

Viruses and bacteria know no border and the exclusion of any regions from the WHA could leave loopholes in global disease prevention and control efforts, Chen said.

While China has huge problems with its epidemic prevention network, Taiwan can share its expertise on disease control with the world, Chen added.

Chen and a Taiwanese delegation are scheduled to leave for Geneva on Friday next week. They plan to hold talks with friendly countries on the sidelines of the WHA, before returning home on May 23 or 24.

Legislators across party lines urged the government to continue work toward Taiwan’s participation at this year’s WHA, as improbable as it might seem.

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