On the eve of the annual World Health Assembly (WHA), the Presidential Office yesterday said that Taiwan has a better chance to become an observer at the WHA this year, as more major economies have voiced their support for the country's bid to join the World Health Organization (WHO).
"Although countries that support Taiwan's bid are still in the minority in the WHA, we believe there will be special ways to help the country participate in the WHO's activities," a high-ranking official from the Presidential Office said.
He added that the US, Japan and EU have all recognized the importance of Taiwan's joining the WHO, especially at a time when the world needs to work together to restrict the spread of SARS.
"Under these circumstances, Taiwan may find more ways to participate in WHO activities. For example, the US has recommended allowing the country to participate in international seminars as well as other activities relating to SARS, and the European Commission also suggested that Taiwan join the WHO in a "practical role."
From last year, Taiwan has employed a more practical approach in trying to position itself as a "health entity" in its bid to obtain observership at the WHA.
An official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, "Taiwan's bid for joining the WHO is actually following the model of its joining APEC as an economic entity as well as its making a breakthrough in joining GATT (the predecessor of WHO) as a tariff territory, and later it will strive for membership of the world fishery organization as a fishery entity."
But the official noted that Taiwan should not be over-optimistic, because the countries that will vote for it's membership are still in the minority.
"It will be more practical to gain more opportunities to participate in WHO activities and to have more interaction with the member countries," the official said.
When asked whether it was appropriate for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to apologize to Japan for a Taiwanese doctor touring the country after taking care of a SARS patient, the high-ranking official said that it helped to solve any misunderstandings between countries.
"The Japan government has just expressed its willingness to assist Taiwan in its bid to join the WHA," the official said. "The MOFA is doing what it has to do."
The official said that related departments of the Cabinet and local government, have to give clear explanations as soon as possible to allay the well-founded fears of all Japanese people.
"We believe that the MOFA's remarks have proven our government's sincerity, and the event will not have a negative impact on the cooperation between Taiwan and Japan on the WHA and SARS issues," he said.