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BBC's Francis Markus in Taipei
Taiwan's government says the international response justifies the campaign
 real 28k

Monday, 15 May, 2000, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
Taiwan health move angers China
Taiwan says WHO help was needed in the earthquake
Taiwan is putting forward a fresh bid for observer status in the World Health Organisation (WHO) at its annual session in Geneva, despite vehement opposition from China.

Taiwan argues not only that its own citizens would benefit but that it could contribute its health expertise to developing countries.

Taiwan was excluded from the WHO nearly 20 years ago and its efforts to rejoin the organisation in the last three years have been rebuffed by Chinese opposition.

This latest move comes amid fresh pressure from Beijing for Taiwan's future president to "stop playing games" and recognise the "One China" policy.

Exclusion damage

Taiwan is expected to argue its WHO case by saying its exclusion has had damaging effects.

Chinese Missiles
China has threatened to use force to prevent Taiwanese independence

Doctors in Taipei say they might have coped better with the aftermath of last year's disastrous earthquake - which killed more than 2,000 people - if they had had the benefits of links with the WHO.

Officials point out that bodies which are not sovereign states can nonetheless be WHO observers.

"You cannot simply exclude 23 million people from the system," said Andrew Hsia, who heads the Foreign Ministry's international organisations department.

He said discussions with foreign governments on the issue over the past year had given Taiwan encouragement.

"They are at least being very sympathetic, even though they cannot openly support our appeal," he said.

The BBC's correspondent in Taipei Francis Markus says the WHO campaign could be used by the new government to help raise Taiwan's profile in a relatively non-political area.

Trade pledge

On Monday, China stepped up pressure on Taiwanese president-elect Chen Shui-bian warning him to stop playing "word games" and called again for him to recognise the "One China" principle.

"There will be no lasting peace across the Taiwan Straits if the 'One China' principle and the fact that Taiwan is part of China are not recognized," warned the People's Daily - the mouthpiece of the Communist party - in a commentary.

China has repeatedly said the "One China principle" must be the basis of dialogue since Mr Chen's election victory on 18 March.

Mr Chen, who is to be sworn in on Saturday, has said he is prepared to discuss the issue.

Chen Shui-bian
Taiwan's new leader Chen Shui-bian has pledged a policy of trade co-operation
Correspondents say he has pledged to adopt a foreign policy based more on trade co-operation than on arguing with China over the island's sovereignty in international organisations.

China has threatened Taiwan with war if it dares to establish its independence.

Mr Chen will outline his policy in a long-awaited speech at his inauguration - an event that will be closely watched by Beijing, as well as by the US and Taiwan's neighbours.

Beijing has regarded Taiwan as a breakaway province since it split from the mainland in 1949.

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