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U.S. senators seek strategy to help Taiwan return to WHO

2018/04/20 12:49:27

Robert Menendez; CNA file photo

Washington, April 19 (CNA) Two American senators introduced legislation Thursday urging the U.S. secretary of state to devise a strategy to help Taiwan regain observer status in the World Health Organization (WHO).

Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), co-chairs of the U.S. Senate Taiwan Caucus, made the request prior to the WHO's annual World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland next month. The legislation is co-sponsored by senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

In a joint statement, Inhofe pointed to China as the roadblock to Taiwan's participation in the WHA since Taiwan 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 last two years, even as an observer," Inhofe said. "It is clear that China's diplomatic bullying efforts are responsible for blocking Taiwan's invitation."

He said U.S. President Donald Trump has shown that he is willing to stand up to China's aggressive position militarily, economically and diplomatically.

Working to get Taiwan into the WHA, the WHO's decision-making body, will 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.

Menendez, meanwhile, said in the statement that the WHO's decision to yield to pressure from China and exclude Taiwan from the WHA was "deeply concerning."

"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."

He said the joint proposal was for commonsense legislation that would allow the U.S. to fully advocate for Taiwan's formal inclusion in the WHA as part of the international community to address international public health issues.

In Rubio's statement, he said that at a time when China is continuing its efforts to isolate and bully Taiwan, the U.S. must commit to ensuring Taiwan's meaningful participation in international organizations.

"This important piece of legislation will do just that by directing the 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 version of the legislation introduced by the four senators will be referred to the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee for review.

On Jan. 9, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a similar bill by an oral vote.

Taiwan last attended the WHA in 2016 as an observer shortly after Tsai of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party 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 its pressure to block Taiwan's presence on the world stage.

Taiwan has not yet received an invitation to this year's assembly, which will be held May 21-26 in Geneva.

(By Chiang Chin-yeh and Flor Wang)
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