The Trump administration told Taiwan’s health minister it fully backs the island nation taking part in World Health Organization events – a message that could further roil relations between the US and Communist China during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar relayed the pledge during a phone call with his Taiwan counterpart Chen Shih-Chung on Monday as they discussed strategies to combat the coronavirus and other global health issues, the South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday.
Azar, during the half-hour call, thanked Taiwan for donating masks to the US and praised the island nation’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
Azar tweeted about his meeting with Chen, saying “Now, more than ever, global health partnership is crucial and I appreciate Taiwan’s contributions.”
“Secretary Azar reiterated the US pledge of full support for Taiwan to take part in WHO and other global health events, so that Taiwan could share its expertise with the world,” the health ministry said.
The call between Azar and Chen was the first since the outbreak was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December.
The Chinese ruling Communist Party considers Taiwan part of its territory, denies its sovereignty, and refuses to allow the country to join the WHO.
President Trump has been highly critical of the Chinese Communist Party’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, accusing Beijing of not accurately reporting the number of cases and downplaying the severity of the virus to the WHO.
China has responded by questioning the US response and pushing an unfounded conspiracy theory that members of the US military introduced the virus to China when they visited a lab in Wuhan last October.
Arthur Wang Zhin-sheng, secretary general of Asia-Pacific Elite Interchange Association, a private think tank in Taipei, said the cooperation between the US and Taiwan “helps to promote Taiwan’s international status.”
He told the South China Morning Post that Monday’s meeting was certain to irk Beijing.
“The US wants to tell Beijing that, compared with Taiwan, it has done a bad job in fighting the pandemic, which has resulted in the world suffering,” Wang said.