Taiwan has expressed regret that the island is yet to receive an invitation to the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), scheduled to take place in Geneva.
The key gathering of global health officials will take place from May 22-28, which will be the first in-person World Health Assembly (WHA) since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We find it deeply regrettable that the WHO has once again failed to remain professional and politically neutral to extend an invitation to Taiwan,” Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou said at a news briefing, as quoted by Taiwan Focus.
The WHO has disregarded the widespread international support for Taiwan’s participation in the WHA as an observer, which is necessary and urgent, given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, she added.
This comes after the US government on Wednesday extended its support for Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHA.
“We strongly advocate for the WHO to invite Taiwan to participate as an observer and lend its expertise to the solution-seeking discussions at the 75th WHA this May,” the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“Inviting Taiwan to attend the WHA as an observer would exemplify the WHO’s commitment to an inclusive approach to international health cooperation and ‘health for all,” he added.
According to Blinken, Taiwan is a highly capable, engaged, and responsible member of the global health community, and it has been invited to participate as an observer in previous WHA meetings.
The Beijing government has been blocking Taiwan’s representation at WHO meetings after the self-ruled democracy elected Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwan’s president in 2016 and again in 2020.
Delegates from Taiwan had attended the World Health Assembly as nonvoting observers from 2009 to 2016, during a period of relatively warm ties between Beijing and Taipei.
Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a democracy of almost 24 million people located off the southeastern coast of mainland China, despite the fact that the two sides have been governed separately for more than seven decades.
Taipei, on the other hand, has countered the Chinese aggression by increasing strategic ties with democracies including the US, which has been repeatedly opposed by Beijing. China has threatened that “Taiwan’s independence” means war.