Sun, May 11, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Wu expects the US to lead WHO push

NO HOPE?Joseph Wu said although he expected the nation’s bid to be backed by the US, Japan and Canada, he expected Beijing to use its diplomatic clout to knock it back

AFP , WASHINGTON

Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), the government’s de facto ambassador in Washington, said on Friday that Taiwan expected the US to lead a push for observer status on its behalf at the WHO despite China’s persistent opposition.

Wu said he expected “very clear support” from the US, Japan and Canada for Taiwan’s observer status, with European nations, Australia and New Zealand pushing for “meaningful participation” in the organization.

But none of the countries support Taiwan’s membership at the WHO, he told reporters ahead of the May 19 to May 24 annual meeting of the World Health Assembly, the highest decision-making body of the WHO, whose 192 member countries meet once a year to agree on policies and appoint a director-general.

Wu said that since 2006, the top US health official has written to the WHO chief asking the agency to accept Taiwan as an observer.

“We tried to check with administration officials this time. My sense is that all those kinds of precious support are going to remain the same, if not more,” he said.

But Wu said he expected China to use its diplomatic clout at the assembly to knock down Taiwan’s bid.

“Despite this, we are very likely to see the US government take a forthcoming approach to Taiwan’s participation and the government of Japan is also going to follow the US approach and I believe the Canadians will also do the same,” he said.

A US official said that Washington did not support membership by Taiwan in organizations that require statehood, such as the WHO, but backed “assembly observership.”

“We have made clear for many years that we strongly favor arrangements that would allow the people of Taiwan to benefit from public health programs available through the WHO,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Since 1997, Taipei’s annual attempts to become an observer have been thwarted by Beijing, which says Taiwan has no right to join the organization — as a member, quasi-member or observer.

Wu said Taipei’s communication with the WHO was “frayed” since 2005 when, according to him, the global organization agreed with Beijing that it would consult with China before sending medical information or assistance to Taiwan.

Since the middle of June last year, Taiwan has only received 16 out of 231 public health notifications issued by the WHO, he said.

From 2005 to the end of last year, Taiwan was only notified in advance of about 40 infectious disease-related technical meetings out of more than 1,000 that the WHO had held, he said.

“We were only permitted to participate in nine,” he said. “You can see that it is becoming more difficult for us.”

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