Two US senators on Thursday introduced legislation urging the US secretary of state to devise a strategy to help Taiwan regain observer status in the WHO.
US senators James Inhofe and Robert Menendez, cochairs of the Senate Taiwan Caucus, made the request prior to the WHO’s annual World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland, next month.
The legislation is cosponsored by US senators John Cornyn and Marco Rubio.
In a joint statement, Inhofe said that China has been the roadblock to Taiwan’s participation in the WHA since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016.
“Taiwan has shown its commitment to world health by joining the international response to numerous global health challenges, but has been prevented from participating in the World Health Assembly for the past two years, even as an observer,” Inhofe said. “It is clear that China’s diplomatic bullying efforts are responsible for blocking Taiwan’s invitation.”
US President Donald Trump has shown that he is willing to stand up to China’s aggressive position militarily, economically and diplomatically, Inhofe added.
Working to get Taiwan into the WHA, the WHO’s decisionmaking body, would help to check China’s efforts to enact its expansionist agenda through international organizations, Inhofe said.
“Taiwan deserves a seat at the table in all international bodies, but especially those where they have shown substantial positive leadership,” he said.
The WHO’s decision to yield to pressure from China and exclude Taiwan from the WHA is “deeply concerning,” Menendez said.
“Given the need to assure full international coordination and cooperation to effectively combat the threat of deadly pandemics and other health crises around the globe, the politically motivated exclusion of Taiwan from the WHA is both short-sighted and potentially dangerous,” Menendez said. “Health issues don’t stop at borders or pay heed to politics.”
The joint proposal is for commonsense legislation that would allow the US to fully advocate for Taiwan’s formal inclusion in the WHA as part of the international community to address international public health issues, he added.
At a time when China is continuing its efforts to isolate and bully Taiwan, the US must commit to ensuring Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations, Rubio said.
“This important piece of legislation will do just that by directing the [US] secretary of state to develop a strategy for Taiwan to regain observer status at the World Health Organization after they were excluded in 2017,” Rubio said.
The legislation is to be referred to the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee for review.
On Jan. 9, the US House of Representatives approved a similar bill by an oral vote.
Taiwan last attended the WHA in 2016 as an observer shortly after Tsai came to power, although the invitation came late with an addendum about the “one China” principle.
Last year, Taiwan was excluded from the WHA, as Beijing stepped up pressure to block Taiwan’s presence on the world stage.
Taiwan has not yet received an invitation to this year’s assembly, which is to be held from May 21 to May 26 in Geneva.
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