Australia will offer full support in Taiwan’s return to the World Health Organization (WHO) as an observer, just four years after it was expelled by Beijing. This comes after the WHO suppressed information on Taiwan’s coronavirus prevention measures.
This stance, which came after an appeal from Taiwan’s Health Minister, is consistent with Australia’s long-held position that Taiwan should be able to freely participate in cooperation at the UN health agency.
But this is set to create political strain between communist China, which still maintains sovereignty over its small island neighbor.
The foreign ministries of Australia and communist China have traded jabs over the past week, culminating in serious accusations of bullying, coercion, and intimidation as Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison pushes forward with calls for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.
“The challenge of COVID-19 demands a determined, global response,” said a spokesman for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“The WHO must therefore maintain a close working relationship with all health authorities.”
“This is consistent with our policy of supporting Taiwan's practical participation in international organisations.”
“Where statehood is a requirement for membership of organisations, we support Taiwan's participation as an observer or guest, consistent with our one-China policy.”
The tension is expected to peak at the World Health Assembly in mid-May, when Australia will formally introduce the call for a global independent review. And the US is set to lobby for Taiwan to be granted observer status after it has become one of the first countries to stifle the spread of the coronavirus, despite its geographical and economic proximity to communist China.
While communist China has suggested that the virus started in the US, Morrison has categorically shut down that narrative, by saying, “I don’t think anybody’s in any fantasy land about where it started.”
“It started in China and what the world over needs to know—and there’s a lot of support for this—is how did it start and what are the lessons that can be learned.”
The World Health Assembly is scheduled for May 17-21.