U.S. discusses ‘opportunities’ for Taiwan to participate at WHO meeting

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen poses with Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Taipei on March 3.

U.S. and Taiwanese officials have held talks on expanding Taiwan’s international participation including “opportunities” for the island to attend a major World Health Organization meeting next month.

Taiwan is excluded from most global organizations due to objections from China, which considers it one of its provinces and not a separate country. In particular, Taipei has complained that exclusion from the WHO has hampered efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement Friday the meeting took place in Washington between high-level diplomats including Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs Michele J. Sison and Taiwan’s de facto U.S. ambassador Hsiao Bi-Khim.

“This discussion focused on opportunities for Taiwan’s participation as an observer in the World Health Assembly in May and the possibilities for Taiwan’s participation at the International Civil Aviation Organization,” it added, referring to another United Nations body.

Taiwan attended the World Health Assembly, the WHO’s decision-making body, as an observer from 2009-2016 when Taipei-Beijing relations warmed. But China blocked further participation after the election of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who China views as a separatist — a charge she rejects.

The G7 group of advanced industrialized countries have backed calls for Taiwan’s participation at the WHO. China and the WHO say Taiwan has been given appropriate access to COVID-19 information.

The State Department added that at Thursday’s meeting the two sides also discussed Taiwan’s contributions through its membership or “meaningful participation” in other multilateral forums.

“All participants recognized the importance of working closely with all those who share our concerns regarding attempts to exclude Taiwan from contributing its expertise, resources, energy, and generosity to the international community.”

Last month, Chen Xu, China’s ambassador to the U.N. mission in Geneva where the WHO is based, said Taiwan was a Chinese province with no justification to be represented in global bodies.

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu shot back in a tweet: “Lying all the time! You might as well claim the moon.”