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The U.S. government on Friday called for Taiwan to be invited as an observer to the upcoming meeting of the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, a move China has opposed.

“There is no reasonable justification for Taiwan’s continued exclusion from this forum,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, referring to the World Health Assembly that is expected to discuss ways to strengthen international cooperation to end the coronavirus pandemic in its meeting starting May 24.

“The United States calls upon the WHO director general to invite Taiwan to participate as an observer at the WHA — as it has in previous years, prior to objections registered by the government of the People’s Republic of China,” he added.

The Republic of China, the official name of Taiwan, was a founding member of the WHA, but it was replaced in 1971 by the People’s Republic of China — mainland China — which took its seat in the United Nations and all subordinate organizations.

Taiwan not only offers “valuable contributions and lessons” from its response to global health issues but is also a reliable partner and a vibrant democracy, the top U.S. diplomat said, as the administration of President Joe Biden seeks to rally democracies around the world to counter China’s rise.

Taipei’s exclusion from the WHA would be “detrimental to our collective international efforts to get the pandemic under control and prevent future health crises,” Blinken said.

On Wednesday, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialized countries, including the United States, Japan and Britain, expressed support in a joint statement for Taiwan’s “meaningful” participation in WHO forums and the WHA.

China opposes Taiwan’s participation in international forums, viewing the self-ruled island as a renegade province to be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

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