Taiwan-friendly countries petition for Taipei at World Health Assembly

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May 21 (UPI) — U.N. member states that maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan are expressing support for the island nation’s presence at the World Health Assembly.

Thirteen of 15 countries that maintain diplomatic relations with Taipei said in statement Taiwan should be invited as an observer nation at the annual assembly, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported Friday.

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The countries that are petitioning on behalf of Taiwan include Guatemala, the Kingdom of Eswatani and Tuvalu, the report said.

Countries that have diplomatic ties with Taiwan but not petitioning on behalf of Taipei were the Vatican and Paraguay.

The World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization is to convene its annual meeting Monday. The Assembly concludes June 11.

The United States earlier this month submitted an official request for Taiwan’s participation in the WHA. Top diplomats of the G7 countries also released a joint statement supporting Taiwan’s attendance.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has recused himself from making a final decision. Ghebreyesus has said it is up to WHO member states to decide whether Taiwan should take part in the Assembly.

Lo Ping-cheng, a spokesman for Taiwan’s executive branch, said Taiwan has been “receiving support from many countries” amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“They highlighted that China was preventing Taiwan from attending the WHA entirely for political reasons,” Lo said.

China said Friday Beijing could never allow for Taiwan’s participation.

“There is only one China in the world. The government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government representing all China,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said. “Taiwan is a part of China’s territory.”

Zhao also said “more than 150 countries support China’s decision” and that “more than 80 countries expressed opposition to Taiwan’s participation in the conference.”

Taiwan was invited to be an observer at the WHA under the name Chinese Taipei from 2008 to 2016. Tensions led to Taiwan being blocked from most WHO meetings after 2016.