WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday (Oct 26) urged the greater inclusion of Taiwan in UN institutions, in the latest US bid to step up support to the island amid rising tensions with China.
In a statement marking 50 years after the UN General Assembly voted to seat Beijing and boot out Taipei, Blinken regretted that Taiwan, now a wealthy democracy, has been increasingly excluded on the world stage.
"As the international community faces an unprecedented number of complex and global issues, it is critical for all stakeholders to help address these problems. This includes the 24 million people who live in Taiwan," Blinken said in a statement.
"Taiwan's meaningful participation in the UN system is not a political issue, but a pragmatic one," he said.
"That is why we encourage all UN member states to join us in supporting Taiwan's robust, meaningful participation throughout the UN system and in the international community," he said.
Blinken pointed to Taiwan's exclusion from meetings associated with the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the World Health Organisation.
He noted that Taiwan was hailed for its "world-class" response to Covid-19 - which largely spared the island after early intervention - and that tens of millions of passengers go through Taiwanese airports each year.
"Taiwan has become a democratic success story," Blinken said.
"We are among the many UN member states who view Taiwan as a valued partner and trusted friend."
Blinken reiterated that the United States still recognises only Beijing.
Latest statement amid tensions
The US has long called for Taiwan's inclusion in UN activities but the latest statement comes amid heightened tensions over Taiwan, with Beijing earlier this month making a record number of air incursions near the island.
Taiwan hailed Blinken's support, saying he recognised that the "country" was "a vital US partner and model democracy."
"Your support for the country's meaningful participation in the activities, mechanisms and meetings of UN specialised agencies is key to successfully tackling global challenges," the Taiwanese foreign ministry said in a statement.
President Joe Biden last week told a televised forum that the United States was ready to defend Taiwan from any Chinese invasion, comments quickly walked back by the White House amid warnings from China.
China considers Taiwan - where the mainland's defeated nationalists fled in 1949 - to be a province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
President Xi Jinping has taken an increasingly nationalistic tone, raising fears that talk of an invasion is increasingly not hypothetical.
The United States switched recognition in 1979 to Beijing but Congress at the same time approved the Taiwan Relations Act that obligated the supply of weapons to the island for its self-defence.
The United States has been deliberately ambiguous on whether it would intervene militarily if China attacked.
A growing number of Washington pundits have called for an explicit vow of a US response to an invasion, although the Biden administration appears to be seeking to step up support while avoiding actions that could severely provoke China.
China, which wields veto power at the Security Council, has stepped up efforts to exclude Taiwan since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, who stresses the island's separate identity.
China has notably blocked Taiwan from participating even as an observer, as it once did, in the World Health Assembly.
Only 14 nations, all in the developing world, and the Vatican maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.