U.S., Australia, Japan advocate for Taiwan's participation in WHA

05/25/2021 06:23 PM
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Photo from the WHO
Photo from the WHO's Twitter page

Taipei, May 25 (CNA) The foreign missions of the United States, Australia and Japan in Taipei issued a joint statement Tuesday, calling for Taiwan's participation as an observer in the World Health Assembly (WHA).

The joint statement came a day after the annual meeting of the WHA, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), opened virtually, with Taiwan excluded for the fifth consecutive year.

In the joint statement, the American Institute in Taiwan, the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, and the Australian Office in Taipei said Taiwan's meaningful participation in WHO forums and technical committees would benefit the 24 million people of Taiwan and the entire world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted Taiwan's capacity to research, develop, produce and supply effective treatments, as well as its importance as a reliable supplier of quality personal protective equipment, the three foreign missions said.

The world cannot afford to exclude any population from international health networks, as global monitoring and early warning systems that detect emerging infectious diseases need to be inclusive, they said.

"We therefore call for the substantive participation of all active members of the international health community in the WHA," the statement said. "Excluding some members compromises global health and safety. It's time to bring Taiwan on board."

The missions said Taiwan's early response to the emergence of COVID-19 remains a "public health success story," even though the country is experiencing a challenging time right now due to a rise of domestic cases.

Taiwan, whose formal designation is the Republic of China, was expelled from the WHO in 1972, a few months after its seat in the United Nations was given to the People's Republic of China.

Since then, Taiwan has not been able to participate in the WHA, even as an observer, due to Beijing's opposition, except from 2009-2016, when cross-Taiwan Strait relations were warmer under the then-Kuomintang government.

During Monday's WHA sessions, officials from four diplomatic allies of Taiwan -- the Marshall Islands, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Nauru, and Eswatini -- spoke up for Taiwan during two separate two-on-two debates on a proposal to invite Taiwan to participate in the WHA.

The proposal, however, was not included on this year's WHA agenda due to the objections of China, which insists that Taiwan should only be allowed to take part in any international organization under the "One China" principle.

In one of the debates on Monday, Eswatini Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi said Beijing's claims that Taiwanese health experts may attend WHO technical meetings do not accord with the facts, according to a transcript provided by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Taiwan applied to participate in 199 WHO technical meetings between 2009 and 2020 but was only allowed to attend 64 of them (30%), due to China's interference," Nkosi said. "This shows that the problem of Taiwan's participation is not limited to the WHA but extends to all WHO activities."

(By Chung Yu-chen and Emerson Lim)


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