U.S. supports Taiwan’s bid for observer status at WHA: envoy

AIT Director Kin Moy (Photo courtesy of CNA, 2018.4.23)

Taipei, April 23 (CNA) The de facto American representative to Taiwan on Monday reiterated the United States’ long-standing support for Taiwan’s participation as an observer at the annual World Health Assembly (WHA), as this year’s meeting draws near without an invitation for Taiwan to attend.

“The United States continues to support Taiwan’s meaningful and substantive contributions to the international community,” American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Kin Moy (梅健華) said.

In particular, the U.S. has consistently supported Taiwan’s participation as an observer at the annual WHA and in technical meetings, Moy said at the opening of an enterovirus laboratory diagnosis workshop being held in Taipei under the U.S.-Taiwan Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF).

“We were disappointed that Taiwan did not receive an invitation to observe the WHA last year, but remain committed to advancing our close cooperation with Taiwan across the spectrum of public health issues,” Moy said.

Also speaking at the event, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said infectious diseases are no respecters of borders and outbreaks can spread rapidly to endanger people anywhere and everywhere around the world.

It is therefore important that Taiwan participates in the upcoming WHA so that it can be included in the international response system to outbreaks of infectious disease and to share its expertise in those areas, Chen said.

Moy and Chen’s comments came against the backdrop of Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHA last year and its efforts to participate in the 71st WHA this year from May 21-26 in Geneva, although it has not yet received an invitation to attend.

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) has said that the chances of Taiwan obtaining an invitation to the 2018 WHA appear even slimmer than last year, but the government is doing everything it can to make it possible.

Taiwan attended the WHA, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, as an observer under the name Chinese Taipei from 2009 to 2016 with the help of the U.S. and amid better relations with China during the previous Kuomintang administration.

In 2017, China blocked the WHO’s invitation for Taiwan to attend the WHA, as Beijing began adopting a hardline stance on cross-Taiwan Strait relations after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party’s took office in May 2016.

Taiwan had hoped to attend the 2017 WHA in Geneva as an observer, as it had done in the previous eight years, but it did not receive an invitation from the WHO because of opposition from China.

Despite being excluded from the WHA session, Taiwan last year sent a delegation to Geneva to meet on the sidelines with officials from participating countries and to protest against its exclusion.

(By Joseph Yeh)