US backs Taiwan’s participation in UN

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on September 14, 2021. Blinken was questioned about the Biden administration's handling of the U.S. withdraw from Afghanistan.
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The United States on Tuesday backed Taiwan’s inclusion in the United Nations system, a move that is likely to rankle China, which considers the island under the authority of Beijing.  

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called “Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the UN system” a “pragmatic” issue and not a political one. 

“The fact that Taiwan participated robustly in certain UN specialized agencies for the vast majority of the past 50 years is evidence of the value the international community places in Taiwan’s contributions,” Blinken said in a statement. 

The secretary praised the island as a democratic success story and representing values that “align” with the U.N. He added that Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Assembly robs the global community of its “world-class” response to the COVID-19 pandemic and raised the issue that Taiwan’s scientists, technical experts, business persons, artists, educators, students and human rights advocates are blocked from participating as members of civil society. 

“Taiwan’s exclusion undermines the important work of the UN and its related bodies, all of which stand to benefit greatly from its contributions,” Blinken said.  

The secretary’s statement follows a virtual meeting last week between U.S. and Taiwanese officials that focused on supporting Taiwan’s ability to participate in the United Nations and contribute on global issues like public health, the environment and climate change, developmental assistance technical standards, and economic cooperation, according to a readout of the meeting. 

China has long opposed Taiwan’s participation among U.N. bodies and pushes back against any international move that appears to recognize the island as separate from Beijing.

“The vast number of UN member states, including the US, recognize that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters, in response to the U.S.-Taiwan working group. 

“The Taiwan authorities’ attempt to expand the so-called ‘international’ space by brownnosing foreign forces is in essence trying to expand the room for ‘Taiwan independence’ and separatism and will only prove a failure.” 

The Biden administration maintains it is committed to the 40-year-old “One China” policy, under which the U.S. recognizes Beijing as the sovereign authority over China, including Taiwan.

While the U.S. maintains that Beijing is the legitimate government of the Chinese people, Washington has unofficial relations with Taipei, a commitment grounded in support for its democratic government and that is backed by providing defensive, military resources to the island. 

This ambiguity between U.S. relations with China and Taiwan is a point of intense friction between Washington and Beijing.  

Last week, President Biden suggested that the U.S. could come to Taiwan’s defense if it came under attack, a statement that was quickly clarified by the White House to say there was no change in U.S. policy and that prompted an angry response from the Chinese. 

Yet there is strong bipartisan support for greater U.S. commitments to Taiwan.

The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act, a 2019 law that directs the State Department to report to Congress steps taken to strengthen Taiwan’s diplomatic relations and partnerships around the world, passed with unanimous support in the House and Senate.  

Tags Antony Blinken China Joe Biden Taiwan

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