Sat, May 17, 2003 - Page 2 News List

US lawmakers boost Taipei bid

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The Senate Republican leadership has demanded that US President George W. Bush administration take the lead in efforts to secure Taiwan's status as an official observer in next week's World Health Assembly (WHA), calling Taiwan's exclusion from the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) "inexcusable."

In an extensive policy paper issued Wednesday, the Senate Republican Policy Committee made a strong case for Taiwan's participation in the assembly and the WHO generally, citing the SARS epidemic as yet another reason to support Taipei's position.

"The SARS epidemic has once again reaffirmed the fact that disease is borderless," the paper said.

Moreover, unfounded and hypocritical objections should not prevent any of the world's citizens from acquiring the information and expertise they need for health, medical care and disease prevention," the committee's paper said.

The paper was released as the US House of Representatives approved by unanimous consent a resolution supporting Taiwan's case for observer status in the WHA and pushing the administration to find a way to assure Taiwan gains that status.

House approval of the bill sends it to Bush for his signature into law. The bill calls for the State Department to report within 14 days of Bush's signature on how it intends to try to secure Taiwan's participation. While that will obviously be a dead letter by the time of the deadline, the passage of the bill sends a strong message that the US political elite wants Taiwan to gain official recognition by the WHO.

"If Taiwan is to ever obtain observer membership in the WHO, the US government is going to have to lead the effort at the WHO, for only it has the legitimacy and ability to stand up for the Taiwanese in international fora where Taipei cannot be represented," the policy committee paper said.

In pushing for Taiwan's case, the lawmakers bared what has become a major difference with the Bush administration over Taiwan policy, especially since Sept. 11, when Bush increasingly has looked toward China to support it in the global war on terrorism and not obstruct it in the invasion of Iraq.

"The United States, in recognition of its commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act, must continue to promote Taiwan's efforts" to obtain observer status, the paper says.

"Further, the Bush administration should view Taiwan's participation as an observer in the WHO and other international organizations where statehood is a non-issue as a principled part of US foreign policy," it said.

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