The US Department of State on Tuesday voiced its strong support for Taiwan’s participation in the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting as an observer, after the nation failed to receive an invitation to attend this year.
“The United States recognizes Taiwan’s continued leadership on global health issues and continues to strongly support Taiwan’s participation as an observer at the World Health Assembly,” Bureau for East Asian and Pacific Affairs spokesperson Grace Choi said.
Choi was answering questions about Taiwan’s setback in seeking to attend this year’s meeting, which is to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, from May 22 to 31.
Taiwan did not receive an invitation from the WHO by the Monday deadline for online registration because of Chinese obstruction.
The WHA is the WHO’s decisionmaking body.
Even though it has not been invited, Taipei said it plans to send a delegation to Geneva for the duration of the 10-day session.
In response to media queries over whether the US would meet the Taiwanese delegation on the sidelines of the meeting, and if there had been cooperation or communication between Taipei and Washington by which the two nations could share information or data on global health, Choi declined to comment.
However, the US has welcomed Taiwan’s participation as an observer at the past eight WHA meetings, she said.
Reiterating Washington’s stance, Choi said the US government encourages authorities in Taipei and Beijing to engage in constructive dialogue on the basis of dignity and respect.
“We continue to urge patience, flexibility and creativity on both sides,” she said.
In Geneva, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said the matter of Taiwan’s participation is not yet resolved.
“Officially the deadline has passed, but yet it is my understanding that discussions are still ongoing and we are also on our side waiting for any developments,” he said.
Lindmeier’s remarks leave some room for Taiwan to attend the meeting, according to an Agence-France Presse report.
The British parliament’s British-Taiwanese All-Party Parliamentary Group co-chair Lord Steel of Aikwood asked his government to support Taiwan’s bid to attend the WHA meeting.
In a letter to British Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt, Lord Steel asked the British government to “show its continued support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the WHA, by writing to Dr Margaret Chan [陳馮富珍], Director-General of the WHO, urging the WHO Secretariat against serving the interest of any particular country and to issue an invitation to Taiwan in a timely manner.”
“The WHO needs Taiwan to build a robust global health system and Taiwan needs WHO as well,” he said.
Taiwan’s constructive participation in the WHO over the past eight years has enabled the nation to share experiences with other countries, to report and receive disease prevention information promptly, and to better contribute to health worldwide, he said.
Lord Steel last month led a delegation of British parliamentarians to Taiwan, meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and health officials to promote bilateral ties.
Taiwan attended WHA meetings as an observer from 2009 to last year, under the name “Chinese Taipei.”
The exclusion of Taiwan from this year’s meeting is widely seen as the latest move by China to clamp down on Taiwan’s international participation, a strategy that has become more aggressive since Tsai took power in May last year.
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