Taipei, Jan. 23 (CNA) Taiwan expressed gratitude Wednesday after the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill that directs the U.S. secretary of state to help Taiwan "regain" its observer status at the World Health Organization (WHO).
The same bill was introduced and passed by the House last year, but failed to reach the U.S. Senate. Following its reintroduction the bill needs to be passed by the Senate and signed by U.S. President Donald Trump before becoming Law.
Taiwan's Presidential Office issued a statement saying like-minded countries such as the United States provide constant support and assistance, demonstrating their concern as to the rights and wellbeing of Taiwan's 23 million people, despite China's efforts to exclude Taiwan on the international stage.
The statement said the people of Taiwan highly appreciate such action on the part of the U.S.
Taiwan will work around the clock with the U.S. administration and legislative branches to develop a stronger partnership, and contribute to the peace, stability and wellbeing of the international community, the statement said.
Cabinet spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka also thanked the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday for its support.
Taiwan's voice needs to be heard by the WHO and with the support of the United States and like-minded countries, it is hoped the WHO will open its doors to Taiwan, Kolas said.
Kolas pointed out that issues related to health transcend national boundaries and as such Taiwan must not be left behind in the process of epidemic prevention.
Together with countries worldwide, Taiwan has the ability, strength and expertise to assist with all manner of health problems, Kolas added.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) also expressed its appreciation of U.S. support while stressing that Taiwan is indispensable in the fight against infectious diseases and working to uphold global public health.
The government will continue to play a key role fighting disease and maintaining public health, MOFA added.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Lin Ching-yi (林靜儀) said approval of the U.S. bill, is a boost to Taiwan's diplomatic efforts.
Meanwhile, KMT spokesman Ouyang Long (歐陽龍) urged the President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration to first work to resolve the stalemate in cross-strait relations.
Ouyang said the government needs to recognize cross-strait realities, while maintaining balance in the trilateral Taiwan- U.S.-China relationship.
Taiwan must strive to participate in international organizations but also avoid being used as a pawn in the politics of great powers, he added.
Taiwan first sought to participate in the WHO as an observer in 1997. During a period of improved cross-strait relations in 2009, Taiwan received an invitation to attend the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of WHO, as an observer under the name "Chinese Taipei."
Taiwan received the same invitation each year until 2016, when following the election of President Tsai of the independence-leaning DPP, China stepped up its obstruction of Taiwan's engagement with the international community.
Taiwan's invitation to the 2016 WHA was received late, in which it mentioned the "one China" principle for Taiwan's participation as an observer.
In 2017 and 2018, Taiwan did not receive an invitation to the WHA.
(By Yeh Su-ping , Ku Chuan, Elaine Hou, Justin Su, Yu Hsiang, Fan Jheng-hsiang, Chiang Chin-yeh and Chung Yu-chen)