US, allies call for Taiwan to be allowed to take part in WHO meeting

TAIPEI (Reuters) – The United States and several of its allies, including Britain, Canada, Australia, Germany and Japan, issued a joint statement on Friday calling on Taiwan to be allowed to take part in a key meeting of the World Health Organization this month.

Taiwan is excluded from most international organizations because of objections by China, which considers the democratically governed island its territory.

Taiwan attended the WHO’s World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer from 2009 to 2016 under the administration of then-President Ma Ying-jeou, who signed landmark trade and tourism agreements with China.

But Beijing began blocking Taiwan’s participation in 2017, after former President Tsai Ing-wen won office, for her refusal to agree to China’s position that both China and Taiwan are part of “one China.”

“As this year’s 77th session of the World Health Assembly begins in Geneva, Taiwan remains largely excluded from the world’s international health system,” said the joint statement issued by the de facto embassies of the United States and others in Taipei.

“Inviting Taiwan as an observer would best exemplify the WHO’s commitment to an inclusive, ‘health for all’ approach to international health cooperation,” he said.

“Taiwan’s isolation from the WHA, the preeminent global health forum, is unjustified and undermines including global public health cooperation and security, which the world demands.”

The United States and some of its most important allies, which do not have formal diplomatic ties with Taipei, have repeatedly called for Taiwan to be allowed to take part, infuriating Beijing.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office this month said it was Taiwan’s ruling party’s fault the island could not attend the WHA given what it called a “lack of a political basis.” Taiwan’s government says Beijing has no right to speak for or represent Taiwan on the international stage.

China detests Taiwan President Lai Ching-te, who took office on Monday, believing he is a “separatist”, and on Thursday launched two days of war games near the island to express anger at his inauguration speech.

The WHO has said that Taiwan’s participation is a matter for member states to decide.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Gerry Doyle)

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