Secretary of State Mike Pompeo railed against World Health Organization director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus over the latter’s close ties to Beijing. The relationship, which predates the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, “damages the WHO’s credibility at a time when the world needs it most,” he said.
“I understand that Dr. Tedros’ unusually close ties to Beijing started long before this pandemic, and that’s deeply troubling,” Pompeo said while speaking with reporters on Wednesday.
Pompeo’s comments came after the exclusion of Taiwan from the World Health Assembly (WHA) — the forum through which the WHO is governed — as an observer. This is despite the island’s success in fighting the ongoing pandemic.
Beijing had insisted that Taiwan be excluded from the WHA, describing the self-ruling island as its province. It also stated that Taiwan’s previous inclusion shouldn’t count as a precedent, as the current Taiwanese government no longer recognized the one-China principle.
“The United States condemns Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Assembly,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“Tedros had every legal power and precedent to include Taiwan in WHA’s proceedings,” he added. “Yet, he instead chose not to invite Taiwan under pressure from the People’s Republic of China.”
Pompeo further stated that Tedros’ “lack of independence” deprived the WHA of Taiwan’s “renowned scientific expertise” on the coronavirus pandemic, on top of damaging the WHO’s credibility. (Related: Taiwan’s coronavirus response caught the world’s attention – and the jealousy of a neighbor.)
Taiwan postponed its efforts to participate in the WHA, which started Monday with a focus on the ongoing pandemic, according to Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu.
“After careful deliberation, we have accepted the suggestion from our allies and like-minded nations to wait until the resumed session before further promoting our bid,” Wu said.
Wu also added that his ministry felt “deep regret and strong dissatisfaction” that the WHO bowed down to pressure from Beijing and continued to “disregard the health of the 23 million people of Taiwan.”
With the postponement, Taiwan now plans to push for WHO membership once the outbreak is better contained, Wu said.
Fourteen diplomatic allies of Taiwan initially proposed a vote on inviting it to the WHA, including Belize, Eswatini, Haiti, Guatemala and Honduras.
Tedros, however, said that he had no mandate to offer Taiwan an invitation to the assembly, supposedly because there was “no clear support” from member states.
In addition to slamming Tedros, Pompeo also blasted the Chinese government over their mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, the secretary took aim at China’s decision to destroy coronavirus samples.
“The Chinese communist party’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan have accelerated our more realistic understanding of communist China,” Pompeo said. “The party chose to destroy live virus samples instead of sharing, or asking us to help secure them.”
Pompeo also pointed to Beijing’s threats towards Australia. The former recently threatened to cut their imports of iron and other commodities from Australia. Prior to this, it had already raised tariffs on the latter’s beef and barley exports to China.
“The Chinese communist party chose to threaten Australia with economic retribution for the simple act of asking for an independent inquiry into the origins of the virus,” Pompeo said. “That’s not right.”
Pompeo then added that America stood with “Australia and the more than 120 nations” who have supported calls for an inquiry on the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Doing so, Pompeo said, would allow the world to understand “what went wrong” in how the outbreak was handled and help save more lives in the future.