Tue, May 02, 2017 - Page 3 News List

WHA snub would be an insult: minister

NOW HIRING:The White House has yet to appoint hundreds of department positions, which means that despite US support for Taiwan, there is no one to implement policies

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter, with CNA

Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee speaks at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: CNA

Denying Taiwan the right to participate in this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) would be “a further insult to Taiwanese,” Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) said yesterday.

Lee made the remark in response to a question by New Power Party Legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐) at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.

The WHA is to meet in Geneva, Switzerland, from May 22 to 31.

Taiwan first attended the WHA as an observer in 2009, a year after former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration came to power, adopting a conciliatory policy toward Beijing.

Since then, Taipei has sent a delegation to Geneva every year, but has not yet received an invitation to this month’s meeting.

There are concerns that Beijing might try to block Taiwan’s participation to the WHA in light of strained cross-strait relations since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May last year.

Lim criticized the government for accepting an invitation to the assembly last year, because it included a reference to Beijing’s “one China” principle.

“If China will not even allow us to attend the WHA, despite how much patience we have shown and how much we have swallowed our pride, then this goes to show that swallowing our pride does not win respect or goodwill,” Lim said, calling on the government to consider pushing for a “more normal and natural” way of participating.

The majority of Taiwanese do not understand why Beijing will not allow Taiwan to take part even as an observer in non-political organizations, such as the WHA, Lee said.

If Beijing understood Taiwanese’s feelings, it would discard its old way of thinking and approach the issue with a new attitude, he said.

The government has a backup plan in case it is not invited, Lee said, without providing details.

The meeting’s main topic of discusion was the “new framework” for Taiwan-US relations approved by Tsai last month.

The extensive vacancies related to East Asian Policy within the US executive branch is “definitely a problem,” Lee said, citing a member of a US-based think tank who said the US supports Taiwan’s participation in the WHA, but lacks officials to implement the policy.

Numerous political appointments in the US Department of State, Department of Defense and Department of Commerce remain vacant several months into US President Donald Trump’s presidency, he said.

“Right now we absolutely cannot find anyone who can hold talks with us,” he said, adding that any talk of importing US pork or pushing for the “new framework,” aimed at increasing the frequency and level of official contact between Taiwan and the US, would have to wait until those vacancies are filled.

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