U.S. ambassador to U.N. criticizes China's vaccine diplomacy

06/17/2021 01:45 PM
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Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Image from twitter.com/USAmbUN
Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Image from twitter.com/USAmbUN

Washington, June 16 (CNA) The United States ambassador to the United Nations on Wednesday criticized Chinese use of "vaccine diplomacy" to pressure Taiwan's diplomatic allies, including Haiti, to change their allegiance from Taipei to Beijing.

Answering questions during a House of Representative committee hearing, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said China has been "aggressive and coercive" in using its power at the U.N. to threaten other countries.

"For example, vaccine is being threatened if countries don't follow China's lead," Thomas-Greenfield said.

The ambassador said, for instance, Beijing has been putting "tremendous pressure" on Haiti, she said, without elaboration.

The Caribbean nation is one of Taiwan's 15 diplomatic allies worldwide.

In response to the increasing pressure from China, Thomas-Greenfield said Washington has to help Taiwan's allies "because many of them don't have the wherewithal to resist the pressure that China is putting on them."

She said it will require an effort by the U.S. and other allies to push back against China.

Taiwan's government has blasted China for deploying "vaccine diplomacy" to pressure many of the nation's diplomatic allies, mostly in Latin America, including Honduras and Paraguay, into switching their allegiance, as Taiwan itself faces a vaccine shortage.

The U.S. ambassador made the comments in response to a question by Republican Congressman Peter Meijer on how the U.S. could use its leadership role at the U.N. to push back against Beijing's "malign behaviors."

Meijer used the recent example of American actor and wrestling star John Cena who apologized on Chinese social media last month after calling Taiwan a country.

In an interview with Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS in May, Cena said "Taiwan is the first country to watch Fast and Furious 9" while he was promoting the film.

The comment raised ire in China which considers Taiwan to be part of its territory, forcing Cena to apologize in a video message that he recorded in Mandarin on Chinese social network Weibo.

"I must say right now, it's very, very, very, very, very, very important," Cena said. "I love and respect China and Chinese people. I'm very, very sorry for my mistake."

Meanwhile, when asked by Congressman Mark Green, also a Republican, to comment on whether Taiwan can participate at the U.N., the U.S. ambassador reiterated U.S. support for Taiwan's participation in the activities of the U.N. such as being an observer in the World Health Assembly.

She said Taiwan should be recognized for its containment of the COVID-19 pandemic and China should not seek to block Taiwan's presence in programs "that do not require a member state."

"So this is something that I find particularly egregious on the part of the Chinese, and we're pushing hard to encourage others to support our efforts to recognize Taiwan," she added.

(By Stacy Hsu and Joseph Yeh)

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