By delaying the decision to grant Taiwan observer status, the World Health Organization (WHO) is further undermining its credibility and exposing its pro-China bias, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has claimed.

WHO member nations unanimously voted to postpone the decision to grant Taiwan observer status until later in the year, in order to avoid shifting the focus away from the Covid-19 pandemic. This was in spite of the country having previously participated in a non-voting observer capacity between 2009 and 2016.

According to Pompeo, by delaying this decision, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has demonstrated a “lack of independence” that “deprives the Assembly of Taiwan’s renowned scientific expertise on pandemic disease, and further damages the WHO’s credibility and effectiveness at a time when the world needs it the most.”

Pompeo’s criticism is the latest in what is a growing line of swipes taken by the US at the WHO, with US President Donald Trump recently accusing the health body of being “China-centric” and threatening to withdraw US funding indefinitely over the UN agency’s alleged mishandling of the global pandemic.

Taiwan’s membership and participation in the World Health Assembly has been backed by the US, as well as by Australia and New Zealand. However, Beijing has strongly opposed the WHO granting official recognition to Taiwan, seeing it as a violation of the “One China” principle.

The island has been repeatedly treated as the site for a proxy conflict between Washington and Beijing, with the US having sold over US$25 billion worth of weapons to Taiwan since 2007 – to China’s unease.

Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province, rather than an autonomous country, which has sparked an ongoing sovereignty dispute, with China introducing an anti-secession law in 2005, stating its right to use “non-peaceful means” against Taiwan if it tries to secede.

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