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ROC Central News Agency

2007-05-11 21:26:29

    Taipei, May 11 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian expressed the ardent hope in an international news conference via satellite Friday of Taiwan becoming a member of the World Health Organization (WHO).

    Chen appealed for a seat for Taiwan prior to the annual conference of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making arm of the WHO, which is slated to open in Geneva, Switzerland May 14.

    In his brief opening remarks, he cited the threat of SARS and avian flu to add force to his call that only by accepting Taiwan as a member of the WHO can the missing link in the global disease prevention network be filled.

    Chen noted that when SARS affected Taiwan four years ago, medical experts from the WHO only arrived six weeks later due to relentless obstruction by China. A total of 346 Taiwan people were infected, 73 of whom died during the outbreak.

    The prevalence of avian flu is another reason why Taiwan must join the WHO, the president said, noting that WHO statistics show that 230 people have been infected by H5N1, a virulent strain of avian flu, in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, 144 of whom had died as of the end of March.

    He noted that Taiwan has frequent exchanges with the six countries due to their geographical proximity and said that if the disease spreads to Taiwan, it could spread quickly to other countries.

    He added that three Taiwanese SARS survivors will travel to Geneva later in the day in the hope of calling attention to the unfair treatment Taiwan receives and the potential risks and threat posed by Taiwan being left out of the global health network.

    Chen said this is the first year the nation has applied for full membership of the WHO under the name of "Taiwan."

    Taiwan has wanted to join the WHA as an observer for a decade, but its attempts ts to enter the organization under the designation of "health entity" have been repeatedly thwarted by China, despite the fact that Taiwan's diplomatic allies and its major trade partners the United States and Japan have supported the bid.

    In recent years, the United States, Japan and the European Union have supported Taiwan's "meaningful participation " prior to becoming

an observer, Chen said. "Meaningful participation" has been suggested by some countries to refer to the opportunity for Taiwan to participate in as many WHO-related meetings as possible, regardless of official title or circumstance.

    But he noted that a memorandum of understanding signed between China and the WHO in 2005 allows China to have a final say on Taiwan's interactions with the WHO, rendering the "meaningful participation" meaningless.

    He cited the precedent of the former East Germany to make a case for Taiwan's application, which was turned down unilaterally by the WHO Secretariat on the grounds that Taiwan is not a sovereign country.

    Chen noted that the status of East Germany as a "country" was challenged when it applied to become a member of the WHO in 1968 but that the request was nonetheless included on the WHA's agenda for consideration by the organization's member nations.

    The WHO invited East Germany to participate in the 1972 WHA gathering as an observer, and during the 1973 gathering, East Germany's application for WHO membership was approved, Chen pointed out.

    During the question-and-answer session, he also said Taiwan's bid to join the WHO or the United Nations under the name of "Taiwan" will have nothing to do with his "four noes" pledges -- no declaration of Taiwan independence, no changing of the official name of the country, no inclusion of the "state-to-state" concept on cross-strait relations in the Constitution, and no promotion of a referendum to change the cross-Taiwan Strait status quo.

    Chen said that if Taiwan pursues the right path and sticks to its guns it will succeed and noted that the Legislative Yuan passed unanimously a resolution to join the WHO as full member under the name of "Taiwan" earlier in the day.

(By Lilian Wu)


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