US urges WHO to engage with Taiwan amid coronavirus outbreak

Taiwan authorities confirm 15 countries support country's inclusion in World Health Organization

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Andrew Bremberg (WHO live streaming screengrab)

Andrew Bremberg (WHO live streaming screengrab)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — At least 15 nations voiced their support for Taiwan’s inclusion in the World Health Organization (WHO) during its executive board meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“For the rapidly evolving coronavirus (2019-nCoV), it is a technical imperative that WHO presents visible public health data on Taiwan as an affected area, and engaged directly with Taiwan’s public health authorities on actions," said Andrew Bremberg, the U.S.’ representative to the United Nations, during a plenary session on Thursday (Feb. 6). “We urge WHO to demonstrate steadfast global leadership while providing timely and effective coordination with other United Nations agencies, member states, and NGOs, and the wider international community in every response.”

“Haiti, like other countries, would like to advocate the inclusion of Taiwan in this structure as an observer,” said Pierre André Dunbar, the envoy of Taiwan’s Caribbean ally. He called on the WHO to “make sure a whole population of 23 million human beings is not left on the sidelines.”

Japan’s ambassador Ken Okaniwa said: “We should not make a geographical vacuum by creating a situation where a specific region cannot join WHO even as an observer.” “Cooperation at a global level is of critical importance to avoid gaps in communication and that no region should be left behind,” said Dagmar Reitenbach, a German health official speaking on behalf of the European Union.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry claimed that at least 15 allies and partner countries had shown their support for the island nation, whose participation in the U.N.’s health agency has been blocked due to Chinese pressure. Taiwan expressed gratitude for the support it received, while calling on WHO not to cave into “political pressure” and grant Taiwan access to the agency’s meetings and activities.

Solidarity for Taiwan drew a protest from China. It had previously claimed Taiwan had been able to share timely information about the coronavirus with WHO and China.

“China would express its strong dissatisfaction that some countries have hyped up Taiwan-related issues on the technical agenda once again," said Qi Daihai, the Chinese envoy in Geneva. “I would like to reiterate that Taiwan is part of China, this fact cannot be changed.”

WHO is holding an executive board meeting, which will give effect to the decisions and policies of the World Health Assembly in May, from Feb. 3-8. The executive board is composed of 34 member states, elected every three years.