Taiwan should be allowed to attend a World Health Organization assembly next week, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday, arguing the democratically governed island's exclusion at China's behest was unwarranted and a concern for global health.
Taiwan is excluded from most global bodies, including the WHO, because of objections from China, which considers it one of its provinces and not a separate country.
The self-governed island attended the World Health Assembly, the WHO's decision-making body, as an observer from 2009 to 2016 when Taipei-Beijing relations warmed. But China blocked further participation after the election of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who Beijing views as a separatist - a charge she rejects.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the WHO broke years of precedent in 2017 when it failed to invite Taiwan to observe, and that Taiwan had unique expertise and approaches that could benefit the world.
"As we continue to battle a pandemic, as we continue to confront other public health threats, Taiwan's isolation from the world's preeminent global health forum is unwarranted. It represents, itself, a serious health concern," Price told a regular news briefing.
"We believe there is no reasonable justification to exclude its participation," he said.
The WHO said on Monday that it had received a proposal by 13 member states for Taiwan to join next week's assembly as an observer, and that a decision would be made next Monday on day two of the meeting.
But Taiwan's foreign minister said earlier this month he expected it would be "very difficult" for Taiwan to get an invitation.
The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is its largest arms supplier and has been trying to carve out more space for it in the international system in the face of escalating efforts by Beijing to isolate Taipei.