Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for other countries to support Taiwan’s participation in U.N. agencies, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Health Organization, in a statement yesterday. “Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the UN system is not a political issue, but a pragmatic one,” said Blinken, citing the country’s “world class” COVID response and other accomplishments.
The message marks what might be the highest level of public U.S. support for Taiwan’s inclusion in the U.N. in recent years, and it follows a bilateral meeting between U.S. and Taiwanese officials on the topic that took place last week.
“Never before have we seen the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the peaceful resolution of cross-strait disputes being highlighted” at major international gatherings, James Lee, Taiwan’s de facto U.N. ambassador, told National Review last month.
Taiwan was booted from the U.N. after the General Assembly voted in 1971 to hand the seat of “China,” which the Republic of China had occupied, to the mainland’s communist government instead. In the decades since, the Chinese Communist Party has succeeded in forcing the U.N. secretariat to interpret that resolution as accepting Beijing’s claims over Taiwan, despite the fact that nothing in the resolution actually prevented Taiwan from holding a seat under a different name.
China’s diplomatic pressure campaign intensified after the election of Tsai Ing-wen to Taiwan’s presidency in 2016. Tsai, a member of the Democratic Progressive Party, is perceived by Beijing as pro-independence. In the years since, China has blocked Taiwan from participating in WHO meetings as an observer, as it had done before, and likely pressured the U.N. to bar Taiwanese passport holders from entering U.N. grounds.
Lee contended that his country’s exclusion from the WHO resulted in millions of deaths during the COVID pandemic. Taiwanese officials attempted to warn the organization about reports coming from China at the outset of the pandemic, but their messages were not posted to its intranet system.
The Blinken statement echoes a speech that Kelly Craft, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., delivered on the final day of the Trump administration. “I believe the time is right for the nations of the world to stand as one in opposition to efforts to exclude and isolate Taiwan,” said Craft, citing China’s success in blocking the country from ICAO, WHO, Interpol, and the U.N. headquarters. However, the January 19 speech was largely overshadowed by the political chaos that followed the election and the January 6 Capitol riot.
Blinken’s statement doubles down on what Craft said about the country’s exclusion and goes a step further by explicitly encouraging “all UN Member States to join us in supporting Taiwan’s robust, meaningful participation throughout the UN system and in the international community.”
The Biden administration has taken a promising step here, and it should work vigorously to place Taiwan’s exclusion at the center of its engagement at the U.N. As the Biden administration considers implementing a strategy to confront China’s malign U.N. influence, promoting Taiwan’s participation should be a major component of its approach.