The Diplomat: Taiwan, Shut Out From WHO, Confronts Deadly Wuhan Coronavirus

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Taiwan has confirmed its first Wuhan coronavirus case and closed its borders to all residents of Wuhan amid concerns that the country’s exclusion from the World Health Organization (WHO) is keeping it from receiving timely updates on the deadly epidemic.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday urged China to share information on the viral outbreak and said the country’s international airports were enforcing “very strict” epidemic prevention measures.

The CDC confirmed that Chinese officials had shared information on the coronavirus with Taipei. There is currently no formal mechanism for the two sides to communicate; Beijing broke all government-level dialogue with Taipei after Tsai was first elected in 2016.

Tsai also called on the WHO to allow Taiwan to participate in dialogues, hours before a WHO group of independent experts gathered to discuss the outbreak.

Taiwan is not a member of the WHO because of Beijing’s objections. In the past, Taipei was invited to join the World Health Assembly as an observer, but it has been barred from even that since Tsai’s 2016 election, again due to pressure from Beijing. Chinese leadership claims sovereignty over Taiwan, despite never having ruled the island, and consider Tsai to be an advocate of Taiwan’s formal independence, a stance she has never verbalized while in office.

An unnamed senior United States State Department official also called for Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHO on Wednesday, according to Taiwan’s state-run Central News Agency.

“We would encourage further incorporation of Taiwan in the WHO instead of trying to exclude them,” the official said, stressing its importance as “corona cases are popping up in Taiwan.”

Taiwan has prepared by establishing a “central epidemic command center,” forming government response teams, and disseminating information through media and social media platforms, Tsai said on Wednesday.

But Taiwan is still barred from attending WHO assemblies and is excluded from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), despite the high influx of passengers in its international airports, including incoming passengers from China.

On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said that countries “must abide by the One China Principle” to take part in international organizations, such as the WHO.

“No one cares more about the health of the Taiwanese people than the Chinese Central Government,” he said.

Geng’s comments were predictably met with derision in Taiwan, where citizens concerned with the outbreak’s rapid global spread see this as the wrong time for Beijing to play cross-strait politics.

Full article by Nick Aspinwall:

https://thediplomat.com/2020/01/taiwan-shut-out-from-who-confronts-deadly-wuhan-coronavirus/

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