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September 27, 2017

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Taiwan invited to attend World Health Assembly

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou announced Wednesday that Taiwan has been invited to take part as an observer in the upcoming World Health Assembly (WHA) , a major step forward in Taiwan's campaign for meaning participation in international organizations.

Taiwan's possible presence at the annual meeting of the decision-making arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) will mark the first time that the country has been allowed to participate in a meeting or activity of United Nations specialized agencies since losing its U.N. membership to China in 1971.

This is also the first time Taiwan will be allowed to take part in the WHA after 12 failed attempts at WHA participation since 1997.

Ma attributed the achievement to the goodwill displayed by Beijing toward Taiwan after the inauguration last May of his administration, which has been working to improve cross-Taiwan Strait ties and has adopted a moderate approach to promote foreign relations.

Ma also praised the strong support of prominent members of the international community, including the United States, Japan, the European Union, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, as helping with the campaign.

Efforts made by various groups in Taiwan regardless of political affiliation also made important contributions to the cause, Ma said.

"Participation in the activities of the WHO is not merely a political issue. More importantly, it is a human rights issue, and the health and medical rights of Taiwan's 23 million people should not get overlooked, " the president said during a high-level meeting attended by administration officials.

According to Department of Health (DOH) Minister Yeh Ching-chuan, Taiwan received a letter from the WHO Tuesday night inviting it to attend as an observer in the WHA's annual meeting scheduled for May 18-27 in Geneva.

The letter, addressed to Yeh and signed by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, extends the invitation to "the Department of Health, Chinese Taipei."

"I would appreciate if you could confirm the attendance of the Department of Health, Chinese Taipei, and the names of the attendees at your earliest convenience," the letter read.

Analysts said the use of the name "Chinese Taipei" by the WHO could signify a policy change by the world body, which had previously stuck to the name "Taiwan, China" or "Taiwan, province of China" in its official documents to reflect the United Nations' "one China" policy.

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