'No reasonable justification' for Taiwan's exclusion from WHA: Blinken

05/08/2021 01:12 PM
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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken / Image taken from: twitter.com/SecBlinken
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken / Image taken from: twitter.com/SecBlinken

Washington, May 7 (CNA) U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday called for Taiwan to be allowed to participate in the upcoming World Health Assembly (WHA), saying there is "no reasonable justification" for its continued exclusion from the forum.

In a press statement, the top U.S. diplomat noted that the WHA, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), will set the agenda for issues of global importance at its meeting from May 24-June 1, including international cooperation to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

"And yet, unless the Organization's leadership takes appropriate action, the Assembly will once again exclude the vital participation of Taiwan," he said.

"There is no reasonable justification for Taiwan's continued exclusion from this forum, and the United States calls upon the WHO Director-General to invite Taiwan to participate as an observer at the WHA - as it has in previous years, prior to objections registered by the government of the People's Republic of China," he added.

In the statement, Blinken went on to note that global health challenges do not respect borders or recognize political disputes, and said that Taiwan could provide valuable contributions and lessons from its own approach to public health issues.

For these reasons, he said, "WHO leadership and all responsible nations should recognize that excluding the interests of 24 million people at the WHA serves only to imperil, not advance, our shared global health objectives."

"We urge Taiwan's immediate invitation to the World Health Assembly," the statement concluded.

Blinken's comments came just days after he and other foreign ministers from the wealthy G7 group of countries issued a joint statement backing Taiwan's participation in the WHA and calling for a peaceful resolution of cross-Taiwan Strait issues.

The communiqué, signed by ministers from the U.K., U.S., Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and the EU, expressed support for Taiwan's "meaningful participation in World Health Organization forums and the World Health Assembly."

Taiwan, officially called the Republic of China, was expelled from the WHO in 1972 after losing its seat in the United Nations when the U.N. switched recognition to the People's Republic of China.

Taiwan participated in WHA events as an observer from 2009 to 2016 under the designation "Chinese Taipei" when relations between Beijing and Taipei were warmer under Taiwan's previous ruling party Kuomintang.

Since 2017, however, Taiwan has been excluded from the WHA due to opposition from China, which has taken a hard line against President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for its advocacy of Taiwan's sovereignty as an independent state.

China sees the two sides as part of one country to be reunified one day, and objects to Taiwan being treated as a nation, such as by being included in international organizations reserved for countries.

(By Chiang Chin-yeh and Matthew Mazzetta)

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