TAIPEI/BEIJING (Reuters) -It will be “very difficult” for Taiwan to get an invite to a major World Health Organization meeting this month, but efforts are continuing, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Monday.
Taiwan is excluded from most global organisations because of objections from China, which considers it one of its provinces and not a separate country. In particular, Taipei has complained that exclusion from the WHO has hampered efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taiwan attended the World Health Assembly, the WHO’s decision-making body, as an observer from 2009-2016 when Taipei-Beijing relations warmed. But China blocked further participation after the election of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who China views as a separatist – a charge she rejects.
Taking lawmaker questions in parliament, Wu said they were continuing to seek an invite.
“The difficulty is very high, but we are still proactively striving for it,” he added.
While China has signalled it would not approve an invite for Taiwan this year, the democratically governed island has won strong support from Western allies, including the G7 group of advanced industrialised countries, to be allowed in.
The U.S. House of Representatives last month unanimously passed legislation calling on the State Department to submit a plan to help Taiwan regain its observer status.
Speaking in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday that China’s opposition to Taiwan participating was because of its refusal to recognise it is part of “one China”.
“We advise the Democratic Progressive Party authorities to stop making use of the pandemic to engage in political manipulation, otherwise they will only bring humiliation upon themselves,” Zhao said, referring to Taiwan’s ruling party.
Taiwan’s Deputy Health Minister Lee Li-feng is leading a delegation to Geneva, where she hopes to have meetings with other health ministers on the sidelines and press Taiwan’s case for participation, Wu said.
Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung will be staying put to oversee the fight against a surge in COVID-19 cases at home, with some 290,000 infections reported since the start of the year, though most those have had either no or light symptoms.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei and Eduardo Baptista in Beijing. Editing by Gerry Doyle, William Maclean)