• Kyodo

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The Japanese government on Tuesday threw its support behind calls for Taiwan to attend the upcoming annual meeting of the World Health Organization’s decision-making body, a move China has effectively blocked.

“We have consistently argued at the WHO that there shouldn’t be a geographical void in dealing with international health issues,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a press conference.

“We support Taiwan’s participation as an observer and will continue to work with relevant countries to urge the WHO and make our stance clear.”

Taiwan is excluded from most international organizations such as the WHO due to opposition from China, which regards the democratically-governed island as one of its provinces and not a country.

The Group of Seven industrialized nations, which includes Japan, has called for Taiwan’s invitation to the World Health Assembly, to be held virtually from May 24 to June 1, arguing it should share its experience in tackling COVID-19.

The WHO has said that whether Taiwan participates is “a question for member states” and not up to the secretariat.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Friday that Taiwan’s exclusion would be “detrimental to our collective international efforts to get the pandemic under control and prevent future health crises.”

The statement drew a strong rebuke from China’s Foreign Ministry, with spokeswoman Hua Chunying calling it an interference in the country’s domestic affairs at a press conference Monday.

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