Tuesday, October 14, 2008
TAIPEI: Taiwan, blocked for more than a decade by Beijing from joining the World Health Organisation or any other U.N. group, said Tuesday China's milk scandal shows the urgency of giving the island membership.
Taiwan has complained to the 193-member WHO three times since the milk powder flap broke out last month about the island's exclusion from the group that updates members on health issues and helps handle disease outbreaks, a Foreign Ministry official told reporters.
"If we were in the United Nations, we could have handled the tainted milk powder problem from the start," ministry spokesman Henry Chen said. "This problem has caused panic among average households.
"Of course it's urgent, just like with SARS in 2003," Chen said, referring to the severe acute respiratory syndrome virus that originated in China and went on to kill hundreds around the world.
China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. Beijing has vowed to bring the island back under mainland rule, by force if necessary.
Beijing's roughly 170 diplomatic allies block Taiwan's WHO membership bids on grounds that only sovereign nations are allowed to join. Taiwan has only 23 diplomatic partners.
Toxic milk powder in China, where at least four children have died, has prompted Taiwan to ban dairy products from China and pull items from supermarket shelves.
The health minister resigned over the island's handling of the case, and Taiwan has added food safety to the next round of high-level talks with Beijing.
(Reporting by Ralph Jennings; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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