Citing the need for the broadest effort possible to fight the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, the leaders of the United States congressional foreign affairs committees wrote to 60 ‘like-minded’ countries on May 8 asking them to support Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organisation. Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, hence, it has been excluded from the WHO due to the objections from China.
According to an international media report, the US lawmakers in the letter said that while the world is battling to overcome the deadly virus, it is important to ensure that all countries prioritise global health and safety over politics. The lawmakers added that Taiwan’s resources and expertise are ‘assets’ that could benefit the world.
As per reports, the letter was signed by Representatives Eliot Engel, Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and Michael McCaul, the panel's ranking Republican member, as well as Senators Jim Risch, the Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, and Bob Menendez, the panel's ranking Democratic member. It was reportedly sent to countries that are seen as friends and allies of Taiwan, including Canada, Thailand, Japan, Germany, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Australia.
Taiwan has been seeking to join a ministerial meeting this month of the WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly (WHA). However, China, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province under its ‘one China’ policy, believes that its effort to join the meeting will fail. The Chinese authorities believe that Taiwan’s efforts are based on politics and not health concerns.
However, Taiwan argues that its exclusion from the WHO has created a dangerous gap in the global fight against coronavirus. Meanwhile, the US lawmakers urged the 60 countries to join them in addressing the pressing issue of Taiwan’s inclusion in global health and safety organisation. The lawmakers reportedly also noted that Taiwan was invited to participate in WHA meetings from 2009 to 2016.
Earlier this month, Taiwan reportedly accused WHO of listing incorrect data about the death toll and cases for the province. Further, it also said that WHO’s exclusion of Taiwan distorted the island's policies and strategies to control the pandemic that slowed the response and misguided the healthcare system, as per media reports. Taiwan accused the WHO of withholding the information and rejecting the province’s appeals for help due to pressure from China. According to reports, China had blocked the island’s further participation after the election of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen who China views as a separatist.