US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slams ‘spiteful’ Taiwan exclusion from World Health Assembly

19-May-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 9:36 AM Print This Post

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has slammed the “spiteful” rejection of Taiwan to attend the World Health Organization’s annual meeting as an observer, despite the island’s success in tackling Covid-19.

Taiwan decided to postpone efforts to participate in the World Health Assembly (WHA), which started on Monday with a focus on the coronavirus pandemic, according to Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu.

Beijing has insisted that Taiwan be excluded from the platform and described the self-ruled island as its province. It added that the previous inclusion of Taiwan should not count as a precedent, as the current Taiwanese government no longer recognised the one-China principle.

“The United States condemns Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Assembly,” Pompeo said in a statement, launching an attack on WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Tedros had every legal power and precedent to include Taiwan in WHA’s proceedings,” Pompeo said. “Yet, he instead chose not to invite Taiwan under pressure from the People’s Republic of China.

“The director general’s lack of independence deprives the assembly of Taiwan’s renowned scientific expertise on pandemic disease, and further damages the WHO’s credibility and effectiveness at a time when the world needs it the most.”

Pompeo criticised Beijing’s attempt to “silence” Taiwan as “spiteful”, adding that it showed “the emptiness of [Beijing's] claims to want transparency and international cooperation to fight the pandemic, and makes the difference between China and Taiwan ever more stark”.

His statement followed Taiwan’s decision to withdraw its bid to join the assembly meeting.

“After careful deliberation, we have accepted the suggestion from our allies and like-minded nations to wait until the resumed session before further promoting our bid,” Wu, the foreign minister, said.

Wu added that his ministry felt “deep regret and strong dissatisfaction” that the WHO “yielded to pressure from the Chinese government and continues to disregard the health of the 23 million people of Taiwan”.

The shortened agenda, Wu said, would allow the available time to be exclusively devoted to concentrating on ways to manage Covid-19.

Taiwan planned to continue pushing for WHO membership once the outbreak is better contained, and when “meetings will be conducted normally”, said Wu.

Fourteen diplomatic allies of Taiwan initially proposed to have a vote on inviting Taiwan to the WHA. They included Belise, eSwatini, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras.

Tedros earlier said he had no mandate to offer Taiwan an invitation to the assembly because there is “no clear support” among member states.

Tedros in April had accused Taiwan of being behind a racist campaign against him and Africans in general a charge that Taipei rejected as “slander”.

Addressing the World Health Assembly, US Secretary of Health Alex Azar took a thinly veiled swipe at China.

“In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations, with tremendous costs for the entire world,” Azar said.

“We saw that WHO failed at its core mission of information sharing and transparency when member states do not act in good faith. This cannot ever happen again. The status quo is intolerable,” he added.

Contrary to most countries’ compliments to the WHO, Azar sent a critical message in his remarks, saying: “We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control: There was a failure by this organisation to obtain the information that the world needed.

“And that failure cost many lives.”

Addressing reporters at the White House later on Monday, US President Donald Trump said the WHO had done “a very sad job in the last period of time,” and repeated his accusation that the United Nations body was “a puppet of China”.

While he had opted not to address the assembly on Monday, Trump said he would “be giving them a statement some time in the near future”, suggesting that his administration may be close to making a determination in its review of the WHO’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Trump announced that the US would be suspending its contributions to the agency last month while that investigation was under way.


Category: Taiwan

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