Page last updated at 17:28 GMT, Wednesday, 29 April 2009 18:28 UK

Taiwan accepted into WHO meeting

Health Minister Yeh Chin-chuan shows a letter from Magaret Chan, director-general of the WHO Secretariat, inviting the island to attend WHA
Taiwan received the invitation from the WHO's director-general

Officials in Taiwan say China has dropped its objections to the island's participation in a key United Nations body, the World Health Organization.

The move is being seen as a sign of better ties between the governments.

Health Minister Yeh Chin-chuan said the WHO had invited Taiwan to attend its annual assembly as an observer, with the name Chinese Taipei.

Taiwan has repeatedly attempted to join the assembly since 1997, but past attempts have been thwarted by Beijing.

The Chinese authorities regard Taiwan as a renegade province, which should be reunified with China, by force if necessary.

But relations between the two sides have warmed rapidly since the government of President Ma Ying-jeou took office in Taiwan last year.

Many appeals

The announcement that Taiwan has been invited to the World Health Assembly, the WHO's supreme governing body, was made by officials from both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou
Taiwan's new president favours closer ties with Beijing

Taiwan was pushed out of the WHO in 1972, a year after losing the "China" seat in the United Nations to Beijing.

It has campaigned repeatedly to rejoin the assembly, especially after the Sars epidemic in 2003, but China has always blocked the island's efforts to join any international body as an independent political entity.

Chinese officials portray this recent change of stance as a goodwill gesture to the needs of the Taiwanese people, and President Ma Ying-jeou welcomed the news saying his pragmatic cross-strait policies have born fruit.

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