US President George W. Bush has personally voiced his country's full support for Taiwan's participation in the work of the World Health Organization (WHO), as he signed into law a bill approved unanimously by both houses of Congress pressing his administration to work on behalf of Taiwan in the organization.
But, in a statement accompanying his signature, Bush stressed that his administration views such support as consistent with Washington's "one China" policy.
He also demonstrated what appeared to be annoyance at Congress' persistence in pressing the administration on the issue.
Bush signed the bill three days before he was scheduled to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) tomorrow night on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Evian, France.
"The United States fully supports the overall goal of Taiwan's participation in the work of the World Health Organization, including observership," Bush said in signing the bill, which urges the Department of State to devise and implement a plan to gain observer status for Taiwan in the just-concluded annual World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.
"The United States has expressed publicly its firm support for Taiwan's observer status and will continue to do so," Bush said.
Nevertheless, the president said, the administration, "as is consistent with the President's constitutional authority to conduct the Nation's foreign affairs," will construe the WHO law "to be consistent with the `one China' policy of the United States, which remains unchanged."
Bush signed the bill eight days after it was formally presented to him on May 21 and a day after this year's WHA meeting wrapped up. Congress approved the bill on May 14 after the House passed the Senate-approved version of the bill on the eve of the WHA meeting.
The law requires the secretary of state to submit to Congress 14 days after the president signs the bill a report on how it plans to secure Taiwan's participation in the WHA.
While that report has been made moot by the fact that the WHA meeting is over, Bush took the opportunity to scold Congress for pressing his administration on the issue too hard.
His administration, he said, will construe the reporting requirement "in a manner consistent with the president's constitutional authority to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, the national security, the deliberative processes of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties," Bush warned.
He said, however, that the secretary of state, "as a matter of comity," will keep Congress "appropriately informed" on the issue.
Members of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, in letters to the administration over the past year, have twitted the administration for what they saw as its insufficient support for Taiwan's observer status.
Other lawmakers have also expressed disappointment over what they saw as the State Department's lukewarm actions in support of Taiwan's WHA bid last year, and over the department's official report on the issue this year.
Bush's comments on administration-congressional relations clearly was intended as a response to those criticisms.
In his comments on signing the bill, Bush made no mention of the SARS epidemic.
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