Japan on Tuesday urged the World Health Organization to allow Taiwan to join its plenary sessions as an observer to discuss the global response to the new coronavirus pandemic.
“Consideration should be given to regions which successfully embraced COVID-19 in terms of public health response, such as Taiwan,” Japanese health minister Katsunobu Kato told a videoconference session of the U.N. body.
“I would like to state we should not leave any geographical vacuums in addressing global health issues such as infectious disease control,” Kato said during the meeting of the World Health Assembly, the WHO’s decision-making body.
As of Monday, Taiwan had 440 confirmed coronavirus cases with seven deaths. It allowed spectators back into stadiums to watch professional baseball games on May 8, citing a lowering risk of infection.
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference, “It’s regrettable that Taiwan was not able to participate in the general meeting as an observer.”
The remarks came at a time when the United States, Japan’s closest security ally, and China have confronted each other over Taiwan joining the WHO.
Beijing has long viewed the self-governing, democratic island as a renegade province awaiting reunification. On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the WHO’s Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus chose “not to invite Taiwan under pressure” from China.
The Japanese minister also underlined the necessity for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive” evaluation when reviewing WHO’s response to the pandemic.
In the meantime, Kato said Japan has decided to contribute around $270 million in total to international bodies involved in the development of new vaccines to prevent and contain infectious disease epidemics.