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US health chief offers Taiwan 'strong' support

2020-08-10 HKT 11:10
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  • Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen meets US delegation led by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar (right) at the presidential office in Taipei. Photo: Reuters
    Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen meets US delegation led by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar (right) at the presidential office in Taipei. Photo: Reuters
US Health Secretary Alex Azar offered President Donald Trump's strong support for democratic Taiwan on Monday, telling President Tsai Ing-wen that her government's response to the coronavirus pandemic had been among the world's best.

Azar arrived in Taiwan on Sunday as the highest-level US official to visit in four decades, a trip condemned by Beijing, further irritating Sino-US relations.

China has promised unspecified retaliation to Azar's trip.

"It's a true honour to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from President Trump to Taiwan," Azar told Tsai in the Presidential Office, standing in front of two Taiwanese flags.

Azar is visiting to strengthen economic and public-health cooperation with Taiwan and support the island's international role in fighting the pandemic.

"Taiwan's response to Covid-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent, democratic nature of Taiwan's society and culture," he told Tsai.

Taiwan's early and effective steps to fight the disease have kept its case numbers far lower than those of its neighbours, with 480 infections, including seven deaths. Most cases have been imported.

Taiwan says it has been particularly grateful for US support to permit its attendance at the World Health Organisation's (WHO) decision-making body the World Health Assembly, and to allow it greater access to the organisation.

"I'd like to reiterate that political considerations should never take precedence over the rights to health. The decision to bar Taiwan from participating in the WHA is a violation of the universal rights to health," Tsai said. (Reuters)