A U.S. representative to the United Nations called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to directly engage with Taiwan, while Vice President-elect William Lai attended the Trump-hosted National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, as the world battles the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus.
Taiwan also faced difficulties in repatriating its citizens from Wuhan. Beijing initially told Taipei it could not send charter planes to evacuate Taiwanese nationals, which several other countries have done, before allowing one flight into Wuhan earlier this week.
On Thursday, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu lashed out at the WHO on Twitter over its changing designations for the country, which it considers a part of China. “What’s wrong with you?” he wrote. “First you called us ‘Taiwan, China,’ then you changed to ‘Taipei.’ You misreported the confirmed cases, & now you call us ‘Taipei & Environs.’ Look! Taiwan is #Taiwan & not any part of the #PRC.”
Wu has blamed the WHO for inaccurately reporting data on the coronavirus in Taiwan due to its changing classifications for the country. On Sunday, Wu said the WHO’s “inaccurate information” was responsible for decisions by Italy and Vietnam to ban flights to and from Taiwan. (Vietnam reversed its decision later that day.)
Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, responded to the Italian flight ban on Monday by offering “strong support” if Taiwanese “encounter difficulties overseas,” but said Taiwan could only take part in the WHO under a “one China” principle, according to Reuters. A WHO spokesman also told Reuters Taiwan experts had been included in coronavirus consultations, although Taiwanese officials say they must wait for information on the virus to show up on WHO websites.
Lai, prior to his trip to Washington, had indicated he would raise the issue of Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO during meetings with U.S. policymakers.
During his U.S. trip – the highest-profile U.S. visit by a Taiwanese political figure since the United States severed ties with Taiwan in 1979, although he said he was attending in a private capacity – Lai met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and senators Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez, Cory Gardner, and Jim Risch. He also visited the U.S. National Security Council.
Lai sat at a table with Senator Lindsey Graham during Thursday morning’s prayer breakfast, hosted by Trump and attended by dozens of high-profile U.S. and international political figures.
Lai’s visit was not met with opposition by any U.S. figures and was seen in Taiwan as a sign of close ties between Taiwan and the United States.
Full report by Nick Aspinwall: