Taiwan Says WHO Should Let It Attend All Its Meetings

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu speaks during the Ketagalan forum in Taipei, Taiwan August 8, 2023.

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu called on the World Health Organization on Wednesday to allow the island to attend all its meetings if it is serious about its goal of “Health for All,” ahead of a key summit Taipei wants to take part in.

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 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.”

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said on Monday 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.

Speaking to lawmakers at parliament, Wu said the WHO’s director general should take the initiative to invite Taiwan to attend this month’s WHA as an observer.

The WHO should also “let Taiwan fully participate in all the WHO’s meetings, activities and systems, to put into effect the WHO’s charter that health is a basic human right and achieve at an early date the ‘Health for All’ goal,” he added.

He separately told reporters that Taiwan faced a “very high level of difficulty” in taking part in this year’s WHA, but said it was winning more and more support from countries for its bid to be invited this year.

The WHO said in an emailed statement that when it comes to Taiwan’s participation in the WHA, the decision is with United Nations member states.

Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States “strongly encourages” the WHO to reinstate Taiwan’s invitation.

This year’s WHA starts May 27, just a week after Taiwan president-elect Lai Ching-te takes office. China has a strong dislike of Lai, who it believes is a “dangerous separatist” and has rebuffed his repeated calls for talks.

Taiwan, which is allowed to attend some technical WHO meetings, says its exclusion hindered efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.