14 countries voice support for Taiwan’s WHA participation: MOFA

CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA) — A total of 14 countries directly expressed support for Taiwan’s bid to participate in the World Health Assembly (WHA) as it opened its two-day virtual session Monday after Taiwan was excluded from the proceedings.

Health officials from the United States, Japan, and 12 of Taiwan’s 15 diplomatic allies expressed the need for Taiwan to take part in the WHA during Monday’s session, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安) said at a press briefing.

The allies who spoke up for Taiwan were Belize, Eswatini, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tuvalu, Ou said.

Two other diplomatic allies, Palau and Saint Kitts and Nevis, are expected to voice their support for Taiwan in Tuesday’s session, Ou said, while the other ally, the Vatican, which is a WHO observer, will not speak during the session.

Taiwan was not invited by the World Health Organization (WHO) to participate in the annual assembly of the WHO’s decision-making body as an observer for the fourth straight year due to “divergent views among member states,” according to WHO legal officers.

China was the main opponent of Taiwan’s bid, reflecting its ongoing suppression of participation by Taiwan in the international community.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar spent much of his speech bashing China and the WHO for their handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

He also said it was critical that Taiwan participate as an observer at the assembly to bring its perspective on its effective response to the pandemic.

Kato Katsunobu, Japan’s minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, said consideration should be given to regions that responded successfully to COVID-19, such as Taiwan, and no geographical gaps should exist in addressing global health issues.

Beyond those countries, other WHO member-states, such as the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the Czech Republic, showed support for Taiwan by stressing the need for “inclusiveness” in the health body amid global health challenges.

“The MOFA sincerely thanks those countries that supported Taiwan, especially under the session’s tight schedule in which every country’s representative was only allotted two minutes to speak,” Ou said.

Meanwhile, Ou said Taiwan has issued a formal protest to the WHO for excluding Taiwan through its representative office in Geneva, but did not provide more details.

Ou also criticized the WHO for inviting Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平) to give the opening speech at the WHA session on Monday, saying it showed the close relations between the WHO and China, where the coronavirus was first detected.

Taiwan, whose formal name is the Republic of China, was expelled from the United Nations in 1971 and from the WHO in 1972.

Since then, Taiwan has not been able to participate in the WHA, except for 2009-2016, when it attended as an observer through an invitation from the WHO amid warmer cross-Taiwan Strait relations.