TAIPEI, Taiwan—U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday as the allies together face increased tensions regarding communist China.
Currently, the United States maintains a robust, nondiplomatic relationship with Taiwan, formally the Republic of China, and operates a de-facto embassy on the island known as the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).
The U.S. government has also continuously sold military weapons and equipment to Taiwan for its self-defense against the communist regime in the Chinese mainland, which claims that the self-ruled island is a part of its territory.
“The particular focus of both my discussion with President Tsai and of our trip is highlighting Taiwan's success on health in combating COVID-19, and cooperating with the United States to prevent, detect, and respond to health threats,” Azar said.
The virus, which originated from China, has infected over 5 million individuals in the United States and been linked to over 162,900 deaths.
“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,” Azar added.
“I look forward to using this visit to convey our admiration for Taiwan, and to learn about how our shared democratic values have driven success in health,” Azar said.
Speaking at the press conference, Tsai again condemned Beijing for blocking Taiwan from participating in the World Health Assembly (WHA)—the decision-making body of the United Nation’s World Health Organization (WHO).
“I would 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,” Tsai said.
Since 2017, Taiwan has been barred by Beijing from taking part in the assembly and its meetings.
Tsai welcomed Azar and his delegation, saying their visit will allow them to better understand Taiwan’s approach to containing the pandemic.
“The visit also provides us with an opportunity to speak face to face on issues of importance to both sides and find a direction for future cooperation,” Tsai said.
“I trust that through joint endeavors, we will see even more breakthroughs and fruits of cooperation not only in the area of pandemic prevention, but on all fronts so that we can jointly contribute to the sustained peaceful development of the Indo-Pacific region,” Tsai concluded.
Additionally, Azar will also attend a memorandum of understanding signing ceremony between AIT and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO)—the name for Taiwan’s de-facto embassy in the United States.