The outcome of Taiwan’s bid for observer status at World Health Assembly (WHA) in May will serve as an important indicator of whether the development of cross-Taiwan Strait relations can be normalized, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said yesterday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言), quoting President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), said that if Taiwan continues to be isolated from the meeting, it would be impossible for Taiwan and China to foster normal links.
Since taking office last May, Ma has pursued a diplomatic policy with China that has sidestepped the issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty in an effort to build closer ties and mitigate Beijing’s objections to the country’s international participation.
Failure to gain meaningful participation in the WHA would be considered by some observers as a repudiation of Ma’s policy.
But given the improved cross-Taiwan Strait climate, Hsia said Taiwan has a “better chance” for success this year to become an observer at the WHA, which is the top decision-making arm of the WHO.
The “widespread international recognition of Ma’s pragmatic approach to seek ‘meaningful participation’ rather than full membership” in UN-affiliated agencies has also brightened Taiwan’s prospects of achieving the goal, he added.
Once the objective is accomplished, Hsia said the government would explore opportunities to take part in other WHO activities such as meetings of the organization’s expert committees.
Since 1997, Taiwan has tried to gain observer status at the WHA but has not succeeded because of China’s interference and objections.
In 2007, it applied for full WHO membership under the name “Taiwan” for the first time, but the bid failed again because of opposition from Beijing, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory and contends Taiwan is not a sovereign state, as is required for WHO membership.