- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sharply criticized the World Health Organization on Monday for not allowing Taiwan observer status at its virtual meeting this week, claiming the organization’s director yielded to “pressure” from China not to invite the Taiwanese.

The United States “condemns Taiwan’s exclusion” from the annual the World Health Assembly, Mr. Pompeo said in a statement, adding that World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus “had every legal power and precedent to include Taiwan.”

“He instead chose not to invite Taiwan under pressure from the People’s Republic of China (PRC),” the secretary of state claimed, adding that “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.”

The assertions mark the latest expression of frustration with the WHO by the Trump administration, which recently suspended U.S. funding from the organization, claiming it is being manipulated by Beijing and initially downplayed the severity of the coronavirus, which began in China.

Mr. Pompeo suggested Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO virtual assembly that began Monday was a fresh example of the organization’s kowtowing to China, which has long claimed Taiwan has no independence and is under Chinese sovereign control — despite the island’s independence as a democracy.

The catch is that most world governments, including the United States, do not officially recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation. As a result, Taiwan is neither a full member of the United Nations, nor the WHO.

Taiwan was, however, granted observer status at the WHO’s annual assembly between 2009 and 2016 — a period during which the Taiwanese presidency was held by Ma Ying-jeou, a political leader widely perceived to have had a conciliatory posture toward Beijing.

Taiwan’s current government indicated Monday that it had made strong efforts to be invited as an observer to this year’s assembly, but then agreed to put the issue off amid Chinese pressure.

Reuters reported that Taiwanese officials said they wanted to share with the world Taiwan’s successful experience at fighting the coronavirus — having only reported 440 cases and seven deaths thanks to early detection and prevention work — but that China strongly objected.

“Despite all our efforts and an unprecedented level of international support, Taiwan has not received an invitation to take part,” Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told reporters, the news agency reported.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses 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.”

• Guy Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@washingtontimes.com.

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