CORONAVIRUS/U.S.' vaccine donation a sign of strong support for Taiwan: MOFA

06/06/2021 04:27 PM
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From left: AIT Director Brent Christensen, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, Senator Ladda Tammy Duckworth, Senator Christopher Andrew Coons and Senator Daniel Scott Sullivan. CNA photo June 6, 2021
From left: AIT Director Brent Christensen, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, Senator Ladda Tammy Duckworth, Senator Christopher Andrew Coons and Senator Daniel Scott Sullivan. CNA photo June 6, 2021

Taipei, June 6 (CNA) The United States' pledge to donate 750,000 COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan has sent a strong and clear message of its support for the country, and the government is grateful for that, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Sunday.

The specific size of the pledge was confirmed during a brief visit to Taiwan by American senators Tammy Duckworth, Dan Sullivan and Christopher Coons on Sunday morning, and is part of Washington's plan to share at least 80 million vaccine doses globally.

"It was critical to the United States that Taiwan be included in the first group to receive vaccines, because we recognize your urgent need and we value this partnership," Duckworth said at Songshan Airport.

The three-hour visit was part of a larger tour of the Indo-Pacific region by the three senators.

In a statement, MOFA said Taiwan was the first country for which the U.S. officially announced the specific number of vaccine doses to be donated after making public its plan to share 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with countries by the end of June.

In its June 3 announcement, the White House said that of the first 25 million, 19 million will be distributed through the COVAX program.

Of those, 7 million doses will go to India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan and the Pacific Islands.

The White House statement did not specify how many doses each country would get or when exactly the vaccines would be delivered.

In response to Sunday's pledge donation, the country's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) both expressed gratitude for the U.S. support at a time when COVID-19 cases have surged in Taiwan.

DPP lawmaker Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) said the donations from the U.S. and Japan have shown that democratic countries are standing by Taiwan in response to Chinese pressure around the world that has made it hard for Taiwan to buy vaccines.

Japan donated 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines that arrived last week.

While thanking the U.S. for the donation, KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) called on the DPP administration to acquire more vaccines overseas, as those bought or pledged so far represent less than 10 percent of the 30 million doses need to reach herd immunity through vaccination in a country with 23.5 million people.

Asked to comment, Lin Wen-cheng (林文程), a professor with the Institute of China and Asia-Pacific Studies at National Sun Yat-sen University, told CNA that the vaccine donations are meant to counter Beijing's vaccine diplomacy, which is aimed at expanding its influence in the Asia Pacific region and divide Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Wang of the DPP also felt it was significant that the U.S. senators arrived in Taiwan in a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III freighter.

The C-17 that brought the U.S. senators to Maldives, Japan, and South Korea before arriving in Taiwan is significant in strategic and defense terms because it links all U.S. important allies in the region, according to Wang.

Local media reports said this was the first time C-17 has flown to Taiwan since it began service in 1995.

Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a senior analyst at the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), told CNA that most U.S. senior officials, senators and congressmen have flown to Taiwan on C-40s, including ex-Health Secretary Alex Azar when he came in August 2020.

The C-17 can transport troops and cargo, including the 69-ton M1 Abrams main battle tank and other armored vehicles. The C-17 also can carry Apache helicopters, the AH-64, according to the U.S. Air Force.

Lin Ying-yu (林穎佑), an assistant professor at National Chung Cheng University, said the U.S.' sending of a military aircraft to Taiwan was a way for Washington to showcase its emergency military transport capability of landing at a Taiwan airport in times of need.

Also Sunday, a diplomatic source told CNA that the brands of the 750,000 vaccine doses and when they will arrive remained unknown because the distribution will be handled under the COVAX platform.

Taipei and Washington are still discussing the issue to make sure the vaccine doses arrive Taiwan as soon as possible, according to the source.

(By Wang Cheng-chung, Matt Yu, Chung Yu-chen and Joseph Yeh)

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U.S. senators Ladda Tammy Duckworth (third, left), Daniel Scott Sullivan (second, right) and Christopher Andrew Coons (second ,left) arrive at Songshan airport Sunday morning. Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (right) and AIT Director Brent Christensen (second, right) them at the airport.
U.S. senators Ladda Tammy Duckworth (third, left), Daniel Scott Sullivan (second, right) and Christopher Andrew Coons (second ,left) arrive at Songshan airport Sunday morning. Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (right) and AIT Director Brent Christensen (second, right) them at the airport.
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