WHO-China MOU a hurdle to Taiwan's WHA participation: FM

05/11/2020 02:19 PM
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File photo courtesy of Taiwan
File photo courtesy of Taiwan's representative office in Singapore

Taipei, May 11 (CNA) Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) on Monday cited a secret memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between China and the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2005 as directly impacting the country's participation at the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) and in related WHO events.

Given the existence of the secret memorandum, which Taiwan first learned about in 2007, the country needs greater international support in its push to attend the WHA and participate in WHO-related events in order to increase pressure on the WHO secretariat and Beijing, Wu told lawmakers during a legislative session in Taipei.

"In order to overcome the hurdle represented by the 2005 MOU, we need stronger support from the international community and so far this year, the atmosphere around the globe has been increasingly in favor of Taiwan," Wu said.

Despite growing support for Taiwan's WHA bid, Wu admitted it will be "extremely difficult" for Taiwan to secure an invitation to the annual meeting of the decision making body of the WHO to be held later this month.

"But we will not stop our efforts just because it is difficult to achieve," the minister stressed.

Wu was referring to an MOU signed by China and the WHO Secretariat in July 2005.

Though the content of the MOU was never made public, according to Taiwan's government, which received details on the document in 2007, it stipulates that the country has to apply for WHO technical assistance through China and that all exchanges between Taiwan and the WHO have to be approved by Beijing.

Neither China nor the WHO Secretariat consulted Taiwan over the content of the memorandum before it was signed, in which Taiwan is treated as part of China, referred to as "Taiwan, China."

Taiwan's government has repeatedly protested to the WHA over the MOU as denigrating its national status but to no avail.

Meanwhile, Wu also said the United States and other like-minded countries have decided to adopt the measures they considered "most appropriate" to aid Taiwan's bid to attend the WHA this year.

"If they consider (making official proposals at the WHA) is not appropriate, it could have a negative effect if we continue to push them to do so," Wu told an opposition lawmaker during the same session.

Wu made the comments when asked by opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman and Legislator Chiang Chi-chen (江啟臣) why the U.S. has not made an official proposal to discuss Taiwan's participation as an observer at this year's WHA.

Instead, Taiwan is asking its 15 diplomatic allies to make such requests.

The WHO said last week that two of its members already formally proposed that member states consider Taiwan's participation as an observer at this year's WHA, without naming the two.

Taiwan's foreign ministry later said the two countries are diplomatic allies of Taiwan and more would join the efforts but also declined to name them.

The WHA is scheduled to hold its 73rd session from May 18-19, which will be conducted virtually due to travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a WHO provisional agenda shows.

From 2009-2016, Taiwan participated in the WHA as an observer under the name "Chinese Taipei" amid better relations with China during the then-Kuomintang administration.

However, since 2017 China has persuaded the WHO not to invite Taiwan, in line with Beijing's hardline stance on cross-strait relations since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office in May 2016.

(By Matt Yu and Joseph Yeh)

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