Sat, Jul 10, 2004 - Page 3 News List

UK legislators discuss ties

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The UK's relations with Taiwan were discussed in the House of Lords Thursday as legislators called for the British government to implement more Taiwan-friendly policies, including supporting Taiwan's WHO membership and maintaining the EU arms embargo against China.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester, who is also vice chairman of the House's All-Party Group on Taiwan, initiated the debate by appealing for the British government not to "falter in the face of pressure from France and Germany, and possibly other EU countries, to lift the EU embargo on the sale of arms to mainland China."

Faulkner described Beijing's deployment of more than 500 missiles on China's southeastern coast that all directly point at targets in Taiwan as "a diplomatic masterstroke," and cited the military threat as a reason why the UK should not bow to other EU members' pressure to lift the arms embargo.

While congratulating his government for supporting Taiwan's admittance to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, Faulkner expressed disappointment that the UK did not support Taiwan's application for observer status at the World Health Assembly in Geneva in May.

He cited two reasons why the nation should be admitted. "The first is that Taiwan has made remarkable progress in improving standards of public health, to the point where it has one of the highest levels of life expectancy in Asia," Faulkner said.

The second reason is that Taiwan's exclusion from the WHO has meant that it has been denied help when it was really needed, such as when the SARS epidemic infected many of its people last year, he said.

The WHO already has observers that are entities rather than states, such as the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Holy See, and even Liechtenstein has observer status.

"So why cannot our government follow the lead set by the US and Japan, which backed Taiwan's observer status in the WHO?" he asked.

Faulkner dismissed the support given by WHO's director general, Lee Jong-wook, for China's proposal that Taiwan join the Chinese delegation to the health group as "really very unhelpful and inappropriate."

Faulkner, who most recently visited Taiwan for President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) inauguration on May 20, also appealed for his government to review the way the it treats Taiwanese visitors to the UK.

High-ranking Taiwanese officials from the president downward have not been granted admission to the UK, even on purely private or transit visits, he pointed out.

"We should also review how we treat official representatives of the Taiwan government working in London compared with how our officials in Taipei and Taiwanese officials in other EU capital cities are treated," said Faulkner.

"I know that a number elsewhere are accorded a much bet-ter diplomatic status than their counterparts are here," he said.

Two other members of the House, Lord Russell-Johnston and Lord Astor of Hever, made statements in support of Faulk-ner's speech.

In response to Faulkner's requests, Baroness Crawley, who is the UK government's spokesperson for Defense, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and International Development, said a review is ongoing within the government concerning the EU arms embargo on China.

"But it would be inappropriate to comment further before the end of that review," she said.

"We consider that the future of Taiwan is a matter for the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to settle among themselves," Baroness Crawley said.

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