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US, Japan and three allies back Taiwan at WHO board meeting

2019/01/29 13:17

CNA file photo

Taipei, Jan. 29 (CNA) Representatives from the United States, Japan and three of Taiwan's diplomatic allies voiced support for Taiwan's participation in the World Health Assembly (WHA) at a World Health Organization (WHO) board meeting Monday.

Taiwan's government had previously decided not to press its allies to submit a proposal on Taiwan's WHA participation at the Executive Board meeting in Geneva, but a number of allies have argued that Taiwan had a role to play in the body.

Diplomatic allies eSwatini, Haiti and Paraguay spoke up for Taiwan at the meeting Saturday, and allies Guatemala, Nicaragua and the Solomon Islands along with the U.S. and Japan voiced support for Taiwan's WHA participation on Monday.

Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its gratitude for their support.

In his address to the board, Colin McIff, senior health attache at the U.S. Mission in Geneva, said Taiwan's participation in the WHO's technical work "is beneficial to all" because it is important for the organization to draw on the technical expertise and financial resources of all interested parties.

"The U.S. was pleased, therefore, when Taiwan offered to contribute US$1 million to the Ebola response last year and disappointed that so far that WHO has not found a way to accept the contribution," he said.

McIff was referring to Taiwan's announcement in December that it had to suspend the planned donation due to political factors as the WHO secretariat was unable to ensure that Taiwan's national dignity would be respected in the donation process.

Though he did not mention Taiwan directly, Hiroyuki Hori, a senior official in Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, said no one should be left behind as the world has become more globalized and the threat of infectious diseases spreading beyond borders has grown.

"We assume that we should not make geographical blanks by leaving a specific region behind," he said.

Luis Erick Gudiel Pineda, the first secretary of Guatemala's mission in Geneva, thanked Taiwan for its assistance to his country on maternal health care and pharmaceutical products promotion, which helped the ally beef up its medical care system and emergency medical response capabilities.

Nicaragua's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva, Carlos Ernesto Morales Davila, said no country should be excluded from joining the WHA.

The exclusion of any country from the WHA, the WHO's highest decision-making body, would result in a missing link in the global health care system, he said.

Barrett Salato, the Permanent Representative of Solomon Islands to the UN Office, reminded Executive Board members of the vulnerability of millions of people in Taiwan in the event of an outbreak.

"Taiwan is a willing partner in this effort and therefore we urge the WHO to invite Taiwan to participate meaningfully in all WHO meetings and programs in order to share its technical expertise and experience in global health emergency and humanitarian efforts," he said.

Though eSwatini is Taiwan's only diplomatic ally on the WHO's 34-member Executive Board, non-members are allowed to speak at the meeting, being held from Jan. 24 to Feb. 1, with the consent of the board's chairman.

Taiwan attended the WHA as an observer under the name Chinese Taipei from 2009 to 2016 with the help of the U.S. amid better relations with China during the previous Kuomintang (KMT) administration.

Since 2017, however, China has blocked the WHO from inviting Taiwan to attend in line with its hardline stance on cross-Taiwan Strait relations adopted after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party took office in May 2016.

Despite being excluded from the WHA sessions in 2017 and 2018, Taiwan sent delegations to Geneva both of those years to meet with officials from countries participating in the WHA and to protest Taiwan's exclusion.

(By Joseph Yeh)Enditem/ls