Sympathy for Taiwan's effort to join the World Health Organization (WHO) is on the rise, although the chance for success this year not clear, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) said yesterday.
"My personal estimation is that the probability of our admission is not very high this year even though the world community has become increasingly sympathetic," Kau told the legislature's Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee.
Taiwan has been trying to join the World Health Assembly (WHA), WHO's top decision-making body, as an observer since 1997.
This year's WHA meeting starts in Geneva on Monday.
"I think we'll make some progress this year," Kau said, predicting that more countries will speak in favor of Taiwan's bid during the meeting.
The US and Japanese governments have expressed their support since last year, although outside of the WHO.
The latest backing came from Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi yesterday, according to a Central News Agency report from Tokyo.
Kawaguchi told Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) that her government wished to see Taiwan obtain WHO observership through a formula that would be satisfactory to the parties concerned, the report said.
Kawaguichi made the remark in response to her visitor's criticism of what he termed Taiwan's move to utilize the SARS outbreak for political purposes, the report said.
On Sunday, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Chikara Sakaguichi told the press in Tokyo that Japan supported Taipei's bid and that it was considering sending doctors and medical supplies to Taipei to help combat the SARS outbreak.
Kau told reporters during a committee break yesterday that Washington's effort to get Beijing's help in solving the North Korean nuclear crisis could dissuade Washington to take a hard-line stance in support of Taipei's bid this year.
The European Parliament, however, is expected to pass a resolution supportive of the bid on Thursday, he said.
But it is far from clear how EU members will act during the WHA meeting when Taipei's case is put on the table in Geneva.
Kau, who has taken a leading role in pushing the WHO bid since last year, said the SARS outbreak has highlighted the need for Taiwan to be a part of the UN health agency.
The exclusion of Taiwan from the WHO is unfair to its people and a misfortune for the world medical community because it creates a hole in the global fight against diseases, Kau said.
He cautioned that the government should not endeavor to make political capital out of SARS.
"We should seek a pragmatic solution to win recognition from the international society," Kau said.