It’s WHO time again…and AFP reports on Taiwan’s frustration with “friendly” nations…

Taiwan said it expected the United States to lead a push for observer status for the island at the World Health Organization (WHO) despite China’s persistent opposition.

Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s de facto envoy in Washington, said he expected “very clear support” from the United States, Japan and Canada for Taiwan’s observer status with European nations, Australia and New Zealand pushing for “meaningful participation” in the organization.

But none of the countries support Taiwan’s membership in WHO, he told reporters ahead of the May 19-24 annual meeting of the World Health Assembly, the highest decision-making body of the WHO, whose 192 member countries meet once a year to agree on policies and appoint a director-general.

In recent years Australia has been trying to put an end to Taiwan’s dollar diplomacy, claiming it is corrupting governments in the region. This may well be true. But by putting pressure on Taiwan, the Aussies essentially cede the region to Beijing, since Beijing isn’t going to stop. Apparently Aussie foreign policy analysts believe it is better to have Beijing’s influence in their backyard than Taiwan’s. Be careful what you wish for…..

But addressing “chequebook diplomacy” is treating the symptom. Taiwan engages in dollar diplomacy because it has no other choice if it wants some kind of recognition in the world. If Australia was really interested in putting an end to Taiwan’s behavior in the South Seas, it could take positive steps to support Taiwan into the WHO — treating the cause, not the symptom. Ditto for the US. If more nations gave Taiwan their support in reasonable causes like the WHO, Taiwan would have less incentive to engage in cowboy diplomacy.

Note that the WHO meeting is May 19-24. The new President, Ma Ying-jeou, is sworn in on the 20th. Will China display benevolence? Or will they remind Ma who is really in the saddle?

UPDATE: No sooner do I get this one out, then the student paper at St. Olaf’s has a piece arguing for greater US support for our democracy and for Taiwan’s participation in international organizations.

UPDATE II: As several people reminded me, Chen applied under the name “Taiwan” which means that China and Ma have a ready-made excuse — can’t let “Taiwan” in. So we’ll have to wait until next year, again…