Mon, May 05, 2003 - Page 2 News List

New WHO status mooted


Taiwan should initially seek observer status in the World Health Organization (WHO) instead of full membership, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said yesterday.

Tung Kuo-yu (董國猷), director of the ministry's Department of International Organization, made the remarks at a seminar on the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Taiwan's WHO bid.

"As a sovereign state, Taiwan has every legitimate right to join the WHO. Nevertheless, we should not ignore the reality of international politics," Tung said.

Noting that the biggest obstacle to Taiwan's WHO bid lies in China's opposition, Tung said Taiwan should focus its effort to join the WHO as an observer first. "And when the international climate becomes more favorable, we can seek to become a full member."

At the moment, Tung said, Taiwan maintains formal diplomatic ties with only 27 countries while most other nations around the world recognize China.

Against this backdrop, he said, China's diplomatic allies are less likely to support Taiwan's WHO membership at the expense of their ties with Beijing.

The SARS outbreak has highlighted the absurdity of Taiwan's exclusion from the WHO and made many countries more sympathetic for Taiwan's WHO bid, Tung said, adding that the ministry has stepped up efforts to cash in on this new trend to push the international community to consider Taiwan's cause based on health concerns instead of political purposes.

Tung stressed that the arrival of two WHO epidemic experts in Taipei Saturday has nothing to do with Beijing.

"The WHO took the initiative to inform our Center for Disease Control directly of its decision to send its experts to assist in our campaign to halt the SARS outbreak.

"Beijing didn't have any say or role in the dispatch of WHO experts to Taiwan," he said.

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