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 (
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 (
"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).
Hu exchanged views with Lien and Soong on "issues of common concern to the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait," Gao told the assembly.
"This will have a positive and far-reaching impact on the promotion of economic exchanges and cooperation and peaceful and stable development of cross-strait relations," he added.
The debates on Taiwan's application bid lasted around 50 minutes, a relatively calm, brief process compared with last year's debates on this issue in the WHA. Last year, the debates lasted five and a half hours.
It is understood that Taiwan did not decide whether to initiate a vote on its application for observership until one or two days before the opening of the WHA.
Kau said Taiwanese diplomats knew very well how many votes the country would get if they called a vote on Taiwan's bid for observer status in the WHA.
"Taiwan cannot become an observer without enough votes," he said.
Although Kau derided the WHO Secretariat for signing the MOU with China, he implied the Secretariat has become friendlier to Taiwan over the issue of the memo.
As the WHO Secretariat has softened its attitude, Taiwan would cooperate with it and behave like "a good citizen" -- namely not to call for a vote in the assembly regarding its bid for observership so as not to delay the assembly agenda, Kau said.
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