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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the World Health Organization for not inviting Taiwan to its assembly this week, suggesting that the body’s secretariat had caved to pressure from China.
“At a time when the world continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, we need multilateral institutions to deliver on their stated missions and to serve the interests of all member states, not to play politics while lives are at stake,” Pompeo said in statement released Monday.
Taiwan was not invited to a critical WHO meeting this week because of pressure from China, the island’s foreign minister said Monday, agreeing to shelve the matter until later this year.
Taiwan is not a member of the WHO, and it has not held observer status at the World Health Assembly of member states since 2016. For weeks, its government had been campaigning to take part in the WHO’s assembly on the pandemic.
A growing international coalition offered its support to the island, which has managed to contain the coronavirus with relative success.
But China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan and has sought to sever its international contacts, said the government in Taipei should not be represented at international organizations.
Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, said that pressure appeared to prevail for now.
In a statement, Wu’s office expressed “deep regret and strong dissatisfaction that the World Health Organization Secretariat has yielded to pressure from the Chinese government and continues to disregard the right to health of the 23 million people of Taiwan,” according to Reuters.
The United States led calls for WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to invite Taiwan, insisting he has the power to do so himself.
But the WHO has said any decision on Taiwan’s participation must come from the member nations that set the organization’s policy. Wu said the topic would not be brought up at this week’s meeting to focus on the coronavirus itself.
Last week, Wu told The Washington Post in an interview that the country’s success in containing the coronavirus has led to “a new situation in our diplomacy,” with “a lot of new friends, new partners and new possibilities.”
In his statement Monday, Pompeo specifically criticized Tedros. “The Director-General’s lack of independence deprives the Assembly of Taiwan’s renowned scientific expertise on pandemic disease, and further damages the WHO’s credibility and effectiveness at a time when the world needs it the most,” Pompeo said.