Alexa

Bilateral talks between Taiwan, China at 2016 WHA unlikely

It is unlikely that there will be bilateral talks between Taiwan and China on the sidelines of this year's World Health Assembly (WHA) following the departure of the head of the Chinese delegation from Geneva.

Li Bin, chairwoman of China's National Health and Family Planning Commission, left the Swiss city Tuesday, the second day of the week-long WHA, which opened at the Palais des Nations in Geneva May 23.

Media had appeared to have high interest in knowing whether bilateral talks between Taiwan and China would be held on the sidelines of this year's WHA, as they have been over the past three years.

Taiwan's Health Minister Lin Tzou-yien said Tuesday that there was no information about the matter, although contact with the Chinese side was continuing.

"(We are) continuing to contact (the Chinese side)," he said.

That same day, Lin had an unexpected but friendly encounter with Li in Geneva. They shook hands during a brief meeting outside the conference hall, and Lin said he looked forward to more opportunities for cooperation on health issues between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait in the future, according to Ministry of Health and Welfare spokesman Wang Che-chao.

Lin, heading a Taiwan delegation, is in Geneva to attend the 2016 annual meeting of the WHA, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization. It is Taiwan's first participation in the WHA following the May 20 inauguration of the new government.

Thanks to the independence-leaning nature of the Democratic Progressive Party, which leads the new government, exchanges between Taiwan and China have become less warm than they were during the previous Kuomintang-led government.

For the first time since 2009, the invitation for Taiwan to attend the WHA as an observer mentioned the "one China principle" Beijing upholds.

Asked if he will speak about "one China" in a planned speech at the WHA Wednesday, Lin said he had not yet decided upon the content.

Meanwhile in Taipei, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said in a statement that the Taiwanese delegation has held bilateral talks with 40 countries and international organization on the sidelines of the WHA in the period from May 22-24.

During talks between Lin and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell a day earlier, Lin expressed thanks for the U.S. support of Taiwan's continued participation in this year's WHA.

The two ministers discussed issues concerning a Zika vaccine, the Global Health Security Agenda, and cooperation in the prevention and control of obesity and other non-infectious diseases, the statement said.