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Taiwan's WHA status key indicator of cross-strait ties: Tsai
Publish Date: 2017/04/28
Update Date: 2017/04/28
Taipei, April 27 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen said Thursday that the issue of whether Taiwan will be able to attend this year's World Health Assembly is a key indicator in the development of cross-Taiwan Strait relations.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters Thursday, Tsai called on the leaders of mainland China to avoid any policies that would be counterproductive to the development of cross-strait ties, according to the full text of the interview released by the Presidential Office.

She said it is important that Taiwan participates in the next session of the WHA, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), which is scheduled for May 22-31 in Geneva.

Taiwan has attended the WHA as an observer over the past eight years but has not yet received an invitation to this year's meeting. There have been concerns that Beijing might try to block Taiwan's invitation to the WHA this year, in light of the strained cross-strait relations since Tsai took office in May 2016.

In the Reuters interview, Tsai noted that the WHO is a non-political organization that deals with health issues in every country.

Taiwan, as an active participant in international affairs, can contribute to international health issues by participating in the WHA and needs to do so in the interest of its people's health, she said.

China has been trying to limit Taiwan's international participation, Tsai said.

"The issue of whether Taiwan can attend this year's WHA is a very important indicator in cross-strait relations," she said in response to questions on cross-strait matters.

Tsai said her administration would be willing to engage in direct dialogue with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior Chinese officials, but added that Beijing should adopt a new way of thinking with regard to Taiwan relations.

On the matter of Taiwan-U.S. relations, she said her administration is looking forward to more direct communication with the U.S. government on significant issues.

"We will not rule out the possibility of (another) phone call with President Trump, but it depends on the situation and the U.S. government's approach to regional affairs," Tsai said.

Tsai made a congratulatory phone call to then President-elect Donald Trump in early December. It was the first interaction of its kind since the U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in January 1979.

On the issue of arms procurement, Tsai said in the interview that Taiwan will not rule out any items important to its defense and its defense strategy and she named the U.S.-made F-35 fighter jet as one such item.

In response, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Maj. Gen. Chen Chung-chi said Thursday that his ministry would welcome a decision by the U.S. to sell Taiwan defensive weapons based on the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances.

Several senior Taiwanese military officials have also said that Taiwan would want to acquire F-35 jets. 
(Photo courtesy of CNA)
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