By Mike Boyer
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) underscores why the island nation of Taiwan should be a member of the World Health Organization, its deputy ambassador to the United States said Monday.
Michael M. Tsai, deputy representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office said, "We'd like to be a full-fledged member of the WHO, but China has blocked us for several years.''
Tsai, who visited Cincinnati for the first time Monday to meet Rep. Steve Chabot, said the SARS outbreak is an example of why his country of 23 million people should be a part of the United Nations agency.
Chabot is a co-founder and co-chairman of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, created a year ago to foster relations between the two countries.
"When you are part of the WHO, you get help from the WHO, and for the last 15-20 years, we've sent teams to Africa for public health and donated millions of dollars for global aid," Tsai said.
As the SARS outbreak worsened last month, Chinese officials did an about-face and allowed WHO investigators into Taiwan although it continues to block Taiwan's designation as a WHO observer.
Taiwan, the No. 3 hot spot for SARS behind China and Hong Kong, reported four new cases Monday. Health officials in the island's capital approved the resignation of Yangming Hospital president Wang Tai-long.
Yangming has reported at least six SARS patients and 13 others with symptoms since Friday, dealing a blow to authorities who thought they had stopped the illness from spreading at hospitals - the source of 90 percent of Taiwan's infections.
Tsai said the Taiwan government thinks that it has the disease under control despite the new outbreaks and expects to be removed from the WHO's travel advisory list by July.
Recession and more recently the outbreak of SARS has taken its toll on the Taiwan economy, which relies heavily on trade with the United States.
"We're confident the economic recovery is on the way,'' Tsai said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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