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In a clear message to China, US triggers move to restore Taiwan’s observer status at WHO

The WHO headquarters in Geneva

In a clear message to China, the U.S. Senate has unanimously passed a bill to help Taiwan regain its observer status at the World Health Organization.

Taiwan is excluded from UN organizations such as the WHO because of objections from China, which considers the island one of its provinces and not a separate country. Since China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council it commands considerable clout on the world stage.

The approval comes at a time when China is building pressure on Taiwan by stationing warships close to Taiwan and has also on occasions flown fighter jets into the autonomous island’s air space.

Also read:  Taiwan steadily gets more legitimacy as a separate country with US Bill

The legislation was moved by Senators Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"The U.S. must continue to stand by Taiwan, and do more to reaffirm our support for our ally’s international engagement," Menendez said in a statement on Friday.

The measure directs the Secretary of State to establish a strategy for obtaining observer status at the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO.

The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee has already approved a similar bill earlier this year and the issue will now be put to vote in the full House.

Olympics issue

The development also comes at a time when some of Taiwan’s athletes who have won gold medals at the Olympic Games in Tokyo have openly stated that they are “proud Taiwanese.”  This is seen as a defiant statement as Taiwanese athletes have been forced to compete without their national flag or anthem at the Olympics for the past 40 years, and have to participate under the name of "Chinese Taipei."

However, legendary Taiwanese Olympian Chi Cheng has announced she would launch another referendum this week to change Taiwan's team name ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics, according to reports in the local media.