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The World Health Organization has invited Taiwan to take part in the May 18-27 meeting of the World Health Assembly, the WHO’s governing body, as an observer. The invitation came just after Beijing and Taipei signed agreements April 26 to deepen ties, signaling that relations across the Taiwan Strait are further warming.

The WHA meeting will mark Taiwan’s first participation in a meeting of a United Nations-affiliated organization since it lost its U.N. seat in 1971. It will help Taiwan take adequate measures to prevent the entry of A-type H1N1 flu and to cope with domestic cases if they emerge. In 2003, Taiwan saw more than 40 people die of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) amid China’s refusal to let it take part in a WHA meeting.

China at that time opposed Taiwan’s participation in a WHA meeting because of concern it could undermine the “One China” principle. Then Taiwanese President Shui-bian, of the independence-oriented Democratic Progressive Party, sought acceptance in a WHA meeting under the name “Taiwan.”

Mr. Ma Ying-jeou of Kuomintang, who became Taiwan’s president in May 2008, has pushed rapprochement with China by shelving the sovereignty issue. Last year two rounds of talks produced bilateral pacts on air, tourism and cargo links.

On April 26, Beijing and Taipei further agreed to inaugurate 270 regularly scheduled weekly flights across the Taiwan Strait, replacing the current 108 weekly chartered flights; to cooperate in criminal investigations, including extradition; to establish a currency clearing system; and to allow mutual access to market information. The two sides also agreed in principle to increase China’s investment in Taiwan.

As for the coming WHA meeting, Taiwan consulted with China and agreed to use the name “Chinese Taipei” instead of the “Republic of China” or “Taiwan.” More than 40 percent of Taiwan’s exports now go to China and 60 percent of its overseas investments are made in China. Mr. Ma’s approach should be appreciated by the international community for contributing to building trustful relations across the strait.

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