US Senate passes bill backing Taiwan's inclusion in WHO

Bill calls on secretary of state to draft plan to include Taiwan in WHA as observer

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U.S. Capitol Building. 

U.S. Capitol Building.  (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. Senate on Monday (May 11) passed legislation supporting Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization (WHO).

On Monday, the Senate unanimously passed a bill calling on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to devise a plan for Taiwan to rejoin the WHO. The bill S.249, drafted by Jim Inhofe (R-OK.) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ.), co-chairs of the Senate Taiwan Caucus, requests that Pompeo develop a strategy that would enable Taiwan to participate in the WHO's governing body, the World Health Assembly (WHA), as an observer.

The bill notes that Taiwan was an observer in the WHA from 2009 to 2016. However, since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was elected and refused to acknowledge the "1992 Consensus," China has sought to punish her administration by excluding Taiwan from international organizations, including the WHO beginning in 2017.

The legislation points out the fact that Taiwan has been a "model contributor to world health," having invested US$6 billion in international medical and humanitarian efforts in over 80 countries over the past 24 years. Yet China has carried out an extensive campaign to exclude Taiwan from the meetings of international organizations, such as the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the General Assembly of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).

The bill mentions that Congress has directed the secretary of state to create a strategy through which Taiwan can attain observer status in the WHA. Congress has also passed legislation to support Taiwan's inclusion in ICAO and INTERPOL.

In Section 2 of the bill, the Senate calls on the secretary of state to brief congressional committees on actions taken by the U.S. "to reaffirm and strengthen Taiwan's official and unofficial diplomatic relationships." The briefing must include actions taken by the U.S. to induce governments to maintain or strengthen diplomatic relations with Taiwan and actions taken by other governments to alter or downgrade official ties with Taiwan.

The briefing is also required to include a plan of action to engage with countries both seeking to strengthen and weaken ties with the island nation. The bill closes by calling for the implementation of Section 209 of the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, which outlines American commitments to Taiwan as a key partner in the Indo-Pacific region.

When announcing the passage of the bill on his website, Inhofe wrote that China's exclusion of Taiwan from the WHO is "unacceptable—and as we look at the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, China’s diplomatic bullying is even more egregious." He emphasized that Taiwan has been a "strong partner in public health" and that it has donated substantial amounts of medical supplies to countries in need.

Inhofe went on to say that keeping Taiwan out of the WHO, "especially at the request of China, as the world grapples with a global pandemic cannot stand." Meanwhile, Menendez said that “Securing Taiwan a seat at the WHO’s decision-making table is not only the right thing to do, it is an imperative as we should be learning from Taipei’s responsible and successful response to the coronavirus outbreak."