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U.S. supports Taiwan's WHA participation: Taiwan health minister

2018/05/24 21:19:11

Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中, left) and United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar/photo courtesy of World Health Assembly reporting team

Geneva, May 24 (CNA) United States Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has pledged to support Taiwan's efforts to participate in the World Health Assembly (WHA), Taiwan's health minister said Thursday.

Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said that during a 35-minute meeting earlier in the day with Azar, the U.S. health secretary said his country was pleased to continue its support for Taiwan's efforts to participate in the WHA.

The U.S. will not wait for the World Health Organization (WHO) annual executive board meeting at the start of next year or until the next WHA to petition for Taiwan's inclusion, but will act right away, Chen said.

Chen's remarks followed Azar's speech at the third plenary of the 71st WHA two days earlier, in which he said it was disappointing that Taiwan had not been invited to this year's meeting as an observer.

Azar said the world is now better prepared for a flu pandemic and while there is an internationally agreed upon process and timeline to share flu virus samples rapidly, every country and relevant international institution must do its part in order for such systems to work.

"Thus, it is again disappointing that Taiwan was not invited to observe WHA," he said. "It is difficult to reconcile our shared concern over cross-border infectious diseases with excluding representatives of the 23 million people of Taiwan from this gathering."

On May 16, a bipartisan group of 172 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, calling for Taiwan to be allowed to participate in the WHA. The letter was also signed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R., Calif.) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.) and was copied to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Azar.

Due to pressure from Beijing, Taiwan has been unable to attend the two most recent annual meetings of the WHA, the decision making body of the WHO.

The 71st WHA officially opened Monday and will run through Saturday.

(By Tang Pei-chun, Tai Ya-chen and William Yen)
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