China is behind efforts within the World Health Organization (WHO) to exclude Taiwan, despite the growing threat of Asian viral epidemics on the island, Taiwan's unofficial ambassador to the U.S. said yesterday.
"The Chinese side is attempting to isolate Taiwan internationally," said Jiaushieh Joseph Wu, who last month assumed the post of senior representative of the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representative Office, which represents Taiwan's government in the United States.
Mr. Wu told reporters and editors of The Washington Times that Taiwan has tried to join the WHO for 10 years to better help its people fend off infectious diseases. However, China has "decided to crank up" its propaganda that Taiwan is seeking to politicize the U.N. organization that monitors health and fights diseases around the world.
As a result, the WHO has rejected Taiwan's appeal for membership, saying Taiwan it is not widely recognized as an independent state. Taiwan is recognized as the Republic of China by several Caribbean and South Pacific nations. Both the Republic of China, in Taipei, and the People's Republic of China, in Beijing, have long claimed to be the legitimate government of all China, and no nation has diplomatic relations with both.
Taiwan was hit with an epidemic in 1998 that affected 3,000 people and killed 80, Mr. Wu said, and in 2003 the island was attacked by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the WHO initially did not help it.
"It started to get out of hand," Mr. Wu said of SARS. "That was a real threat against Taiwan." Mr. Wu is a member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and a former head of the Mainland Affairs Council. He said he is worried that a series of visits to the mainland by leaders of the opposition Kuomintang may have resulted in a secret deal with Beijing on the island's future after its 2008 presidential election. He did not provide further details.
Mr. Wu also said the balance of military power between the two Chinas is reaching a "turning point" that has created new dangers for Taiwan. China has deployed nearly 1,000 missiles and more than enough submarines to blockade the island. China also is cutting into Taiwan's advantage in warplanes through deployments of domestic F-10 fighters and imported Russian Su-30s, he said.
"The Chinese side will probably be able to mount about three to four waves of saturated offensive [missile attacks] against Taiwan," Mr. Wu said. "Taiwan is vulnerable to missile attacks." Taiwan has only a small number of U.S.-made Patriot missile defenses and needs more advanced systems, he said. Mr. Wu declined to comment on reports that Taiwan is developing a long-range cruise missile that could strike targets inside China.
China would need 12 to 16 of its estimated 50 submarines to blockade Taiwan and cripple its economy and social system, he said, calling this "another tremendous threat to Taiwan." Mr. Wu said that Taiwan's air force, made up of domestic jets, F-16s and Mirage 2000 jets, still has a "qualitative edge" over China's air force, but the gap is closing. Although Taiwan's pilots are better-trained, China has matched Taiwan in terms of aircraft weapons, he said. "So we are relying on the human factor" to maintain the edge, Mr. Wu said.
A defense-spending bill that would buy submarines and anti-missile systems remains mired by politics within the Taiwanese legislature, Mr. Wu said.
Mr. Wu said he thinks political support for Taiwan from the U.S. government will remain strong, despite fluctuations over the years between Democratic and Republican administrations. For example, the Clinton administration, despite its pro-Beijing policies, dispatched two aircraft carriers to Taiwan as a show of support for the island and stepped up military exchanges, he said.