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China slams US for advocating Taipei’s participation in WHO assembly

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian attends a news conference in Beijing, China September 10, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

The Chinese government has strongly rejected the US call for the World Health Organization (WHO) to invite Chinese Taipei to its annual assembly, reiterating its sovereignty over the self-ruled island.

“We firmly oppose the relevant statement issued by the US,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular briefing on Thursday, stressing that “there is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part.”

Zhao's remarks came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized Taiwan’s exclusion from the annual World Health Assembly as “unwarranted” and said his government advocates for the WHO to invite the island to take part in the assembly as an observer.

Zhao added that Taiwan’s participation in international organizations must be handled in accordance with the “one-China principle”.

China has sovereignty over Chinese Taipei, and under the “One China” policy, almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty. The US, too, recognizes Chinese sovereignty over the island but has long courted Taipei in an attempt to unnerve Beijing.

Zhao emphasized that “any attempt to play the Taiwan card” or use the island against China was “doomed to fail”.

Chinese Taipei on the other side expressed “dissatisfaction and regret” over the WHO’s failure to invite the island to the upcoming assembly in Geneva scheduled for May 22-28.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the WHO has been ignoring the island’s repetitive requests to be allowed to attend the assembly as an observer.

“The WHO failed to stay neutral and professional, repeatedly ignoring the necessity and urgency for Taiwan’s participation in the WHO and WHA,” the ministry’s statement said, referring to the World Health Assembly.

The agency has reportedly received a proposal from 13 member states supporting Taiwan’s request to attend. The island will also send a delegation to Geneva to lobby for observer status at the assembly.

China blocked Taipei’s participation after the election of President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016. China views her as a separatist which she rejects.

Relations between the US and China have grown tense in recent years, with the world's two largest economies clashing over a range of issues, including trade, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, military activities in the South China Sea, and the origins of the new coronavirus.

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