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US Congress passes bill to help Taiwan secure WHO status in open defiance of China

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)
Chess pieces are seen in front of displayed Chinese and US flags in this illustration taken on January 26, 2022. (By Reuters)

In an act of defiance against China, the United States House of Representatives has unanimously approved a bill calling on the State Department to file a plan to help Chinese Taipei to once again secure its observer status at the World Health Organization (WHO).

On Wednesday, the House passed the legislation 425 to 0 before sending it to the White House, expecting President Joe Biden to sign it into law. In August last year, the US Senate had passed the measure by unanimous consent.

The bill was sponsored by Senators Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The two are also co-chairmen of the so-called Senate Taiwan Caucus.

The bill, if signed by the US president, will direct the Secretary of State to formulate a strategy aimed at securing observer status for Taiwan at the World Health Assembly, which is the decision-making body of the WHO.

Beijing, which tries to block Chinese Taipei from participating in international organizations, has been successful in excluding the self-ruled island from such organizations.

China has sovereignty over Taiwan, 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.

Washington, which backs Taipei's secessionist president, violates that policy however by selling weapons to the self-governed island. Furthermore, the US has maintained and recently ramped up diplomatic contact with the self-proclaimed government in Chinese Taipei.

The Chinese government opposes other countries pursuing ties with the Chinese Taipei and has consistently warned Washington and other countries against engaging with Taipei.

Separately on Wednesday, China strongly urged the US to stick to the One-China principle, warning that going back on the commitment would push Chinese Taipei to dangerous waters and bring what it called an unbearable cost to the US itself.

The warning came just a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a congressional hearing that the White House was determined to make sure that "Taiwan has all necessary means to defend itself against any potential aggression" and that Washington is focused on "strengthening Taiwan's asymmetric capabilities as a deterrent."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin at a regular press conference on Wednesday rejected Blinken's provocative remarks.

"We deplore and reject Secretary Blinken’s statement," Wang said, adding, "Since China and the US established diplomatic ties in 1979, US administrations, including the current one, have all clearly stated that they would adhere to the one-China principle."

He also referred the White House to the China-US Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations that clearly notes "The United States of America recognized the Government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, and it acknowledged the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China."

In the Shanghai Communiqué, signed by the US and China in 1972, Washington also declared that, "The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position," Wang said.

Wang also stressed that Washington should not underestimate the strong resolve, determination, and capability of the 1.4 billion Chinese people in defending their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Tensions between Chinese Taipei and China have been at their highest in decades. China has been flying fighter jets close to Chinese Taipei while the US has reportedly had troops deployed in the territory for the past year for training purposes.

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