The United States said it strongly advocates for Taiwan to regain its observer status in the World Health Assembly (WHA) the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), leading into its annual meeting May 22-28 in Geneva.
On Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that as the world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic and other public health threats, Taiwan's isolation from the WHO is "unwarranted."
"We believe there is no reasonable justification to exclude its (Taiwan's) participation" in WHO, Price said. "Taiwan's absence from the WHA in recent years is something that we have sought to rectify. The WHO broke years of precedent at the 70th World Health Assembly in 2017, when it failed to invite a Taiwanese delegation to observe."
U.S. officials and congressional members have praised Taiwan's public health expertise and its resilience in the face of COVID-19, saying it offers "considerable resources to inform the WHO" as the U.N. health agency addresses public health threats.
The State Department's renewed support for Taiwan comes days after U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law a bill that directs the secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization.
The U.S. move is seen as an open rebuke to China. The Beijing government has been blocking Taiwan's representation at WHO meetings after the self-ruled democracy elected Tsai Ing-wen, a China skeptic, as Taiwan's president in 2016 and 2020.
Delegates from Taiwan had attended the World Health Assembly as nonvoting observers from 2009 to 2016, during a period of relatively warm ties between Beijing and Taipei.
Taiwan has not been invited to attend the 75th World Health Assembly, to be held this month in Geneva.
On Saturday, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs thanked the U.S. for its support. However, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said earlier this month that he expected it would be "very difficult" to get an invitation to the meeting, Reuters reported.
In Beijing, a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said the U.S. bill to help Taiwan regain its WHO status "gravely violates" Beijing's "one-China principle."
"China rejects and deplores that the U.S. should insist on signing it into law," spokesperson Zhao Lijian said this week.
U.S. officials have said Washington's one-China policy is "distinct" from Beijing's one-China principle. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has never ruled Taiwan but asserts sovereignty over the self-ruled democracy.
The U.S. has never accepted the CCP's sovereignty claim over Taiwan and has refrained from taking a position on sovereignty over Taiwan.