Wed, May 18, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Support for WHO bid dries up

ANOTHER FAILURE Despite their previously avowed enthusiastic support for the nation's ninth bid to join the WHO as an observer, Japan, the US and the EU stayed mum

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN GENEVA

The US and Japan, who had been supportive of Taiwan's World Health Organization (WHO) observership, along with the EU kept silent on Monday as the health body rejected the proposal to add Taiwan's ninth consecutive WHO bid to the World Health Assembly's (WHA) provisional agenda on Monday.

"We regret the results and are very disappointed," Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) told reporters after the failure of the country's ninth attempt to enter the WHO.

Twenty-one countries, 19 of which are Taiwan's diplomatic allies, spoke in favor of Taiwan's bid, and 33 countries spoke against the proposal in the General Committee. The two non-diplomatic allies voicing support for Taiwan were Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

The US, Japan and the EU made no public statements regarding Taiwan's WHO bid during Monday's WHA.

Many countries' delegates to the General Committee raised questions about a memorandum of understanding (MOU) China signed with the WHO Secretariat facilitating technical exchanges between Taiwan and the WHO last Saturday, said Alicia Hunt, Belize's delegate to the committee.

Taiwan was not consulted when China and the WHO Secretariat forged the MOU. Most delegates to the General Committee scarcely knew the contents of the MOU, Hunt said.

The MOU is a product of "secret diplomacy" between China and the WHO Secretariat, said Kau, adding that it is very inappropriate for the WHO Secretariat to ink such a deal.

The WHA opened in Geneva on Monday and will run until May 25. The General Committee closed at 2:30pm on Monday.

The General Committee's decision to reject the proposal of adding Taiwan's application for observer status to the assembly agenda was read in the WHA's second plenary meeting, which began a few minutes after the closure of the General Committee.

The head of Chad's delegation to the WHA took the floor to explain the necessity of including Taiwan in the health body as an observer.

After the statement by Chad, which is one of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, the head of Pakistan's delegation argued that it is illegitimate for Taiwan to join the WHO as an observer.

One of the reasons why Taiwan's application for WHO observership failed is because it violates the "one China" principle that many countries adhere to, the Pakistani representative said.

After Pakistan, the floor was given to H.M. Ntaba, Minister of Health of Malawi, who stated that the "one China" policy does not serve the health needs of Taiwan.

Ntaba questioned the legality of the MOU between China and the WHO Secretariat and called the deal a "strange development."

"Would the WHO be so naive as to believe that the formula will work?" asked Ntaba, who highlighted the fact that neither China nor the WHO Secretariat engaged with Taiwan when they discussed the MOU.

Chinese Minister of Health Gao Qiang (高強), who spoke after Ntaba, said that, based on the MOU, Taiwan and the WHO can carry out technical exchanges with China's permission.

"In case of an acute public health emergency in Taiwan, the WHO can send staff members and experts to Taiwan for field visits or to provide public health technical assistance, or invite Taiwan's medical and public health experts to participate in relevant technical activities," Gao said.

In his speech, Gao mentioned Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong's (宋楚瑜) recent visits to Beijing at the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).

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