Taipei, May 8 (CNA) Japan's foreign minister expressed Wednesday his government's support for Taiwan's inclusion in the upcoming annual World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO).
In a tweet, Taro Kono said that as the world has become more globalized and the threat of infectious diseases that may spread beyond borders has been increasing, the global community should not create a geographical blank space by excluding a specific region.
Therefore, Japan supports Taiwan's bid to join the WHA as an observer, Kono tweeted.
It was the first time a Japanese foreign minister has clearly expressed Tokyo's support for Taipei attending the WHA since the two countries severed diplomatic ties in 1972, a diplomatic source told local media.
The source, a high-ranking Taiwanese official, made the comments under the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
This year marks the third consecutive year that Taiwan has been barred from joining the annual international gathering.
During the previous two, Japan also voiced its support for Taiwan's bid, but in a subtle and indirect way, without specifically mentioning Taiwan.
Meanwhile, on its Facebook page, the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, Japan's de facto embassy in Taiwan, reposted Kono's tweet and said that Japan has always supported Taiwan's participation in the WHA as an observer.
The WHO had previously invited Taiwan to attend the WHA since 2009. However, without just reason, it stopped doing so over the past three years, the association said.
The 72nd WHA will be held in Geneva May 20-28. Taiwan had hoped to attend as an observer, as it did from 2009 to 2016, but it did not receive an invitation from the WHO needed to register by Monday's deadline, due to China's objection.
Geng Shuang (耿爽), a spokesperson for China's foreign ministry, said Monday that China decided not to agree to Taiwan's participation in this year's WHA because of its refusal to accept Beijing's "one China principle."
Both the United States and the United Kingdom voiced their support for Taiwan's WHA bid following Geng's comments.
Between 2009 and 2016, Taiwan participated in the WHA as an observer under the name Chinese Taipei, with the help of the U.S. and amid better relations with China during the then-Kuomintang administration.
Since 2017, however, China has persuaded the WHO not to invite Taiwan, in line with Beijing's hardline stance on cross-Taiwan Strait relations since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office in May 2016.