September 19, 2008 / 9:43 AM / 11 years ago

Despite China, U.S. wants bigger U.N. role for Taiwan

TAIPEI (Reuters) - The United States said on Friday that China’s political rival, Taiwan, should be given a role in the United Nations, which has refused to recognize the island on 16 separate occasions, the latest this week.

The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, recognizing “one China”, but remains Taiwan’s biggest ally and arms supplier.

It opposed Taiwan membership in organizations that require statehood, but the island should be able to participate in U.N. activities that do not require official status as a nation, the U.S. government said in a statement.

“When membership is not possible, we are strongly in favor of arrangements that will allow the people of Taiwan to participate meaningfully in the activities of international organizations,” the statement said.

The statement came two days after the United Nations ruled out the latest request from Taiwan, despite a recent thaw in the island’s own relations with Beijing.

Taiwan had sought a discussion on whether it could participate in activities organized by U.N. agencies.

“This once again demonstrates U.N. members’ determination to uphold the one-China principle,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said of the decision on Thursday.

China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. Beijing has vowed to bring the island back under mainland rule, by force if necessary.

Taiwan also should get observer status in the World Health Organisation so the island stays up to date on medical information, the U.S. statement said. China has blocked successive Taiwan bids for a role in the WHO.

China dominates the United Nations with about 170 allies worldwide compared to Taiwan’s 23. The United Nations ousted Taiwan in favor of China in 1971.

Reporting by Ralph Jennings; Editing by Nick Macfie

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