“The director general’s lack of independence deprives the assembly of Taiwan’s renowned scientific expertise on pandemic disease, and further damages the WHO’s credibility and effectiveness at a time when the world needs it the most,” he added.

Pompeo criticised Beijing’s attempt to “silence” Taiwan as “spiteful”, adding that it showed “the emptiness of [Beijing’s] claims to want transparency and international cooperation to fight the pandemic, and makes the difference between China and Taiwan ever more stark.”

His statement followed Taiwan’s decision to withdraw its bid to join the assembly meeting.

“After careful deliberation, we have accepted the suggestion from our allies and like-minded nations to wait until the resumed session before further promoting our bid,” Wu, the foreign minister, said.

Wu added that his ministry felt “deep regret and strong dissatisfaction” that the WHO “yielded to pressure from the Chinese government and continues to disregard the health of the 23 million people of Taiwan”.

The shortened agenda, Wu said, would allow the available time to be exclusively devoted to concentrating on ways to manage Covid-19.

Taiwan planned to continue pushing for WHO membership once the outbreak is better contained, and when “meetings will be conducted normally”, said Wu.

Fourteen diplomatic allies of Taiwan initially proposed to have a vote on inviting Taiwan to the WHA. They included Belize, eSwatini, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras.

Tedros earlier said he had no mandate to offer Taiwan an invitation to the assembly because there is “no clear support” among member states.

Tedros in April had accused Taiwan of being behind a racist campaign against him and Africans in general – a charge that Taipei rejected as “slander.”

This combination created of nine video grabs taken on Monday from World Health Organisation website shows WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivering their speeches via video link at the World Health Assembly virtual meeting. Photo: World Health Organisation via AFP
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This combination created of nine video grabs taken on Monday from World Health Organisation website shows WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivering their speeches via video link at the World Health Assembly virtual meeting. Photo: World Health Organisation via AFP

Addressing the World Health Assembly, US Secretary of Health Alex Azar took a thinly veiled swipe at China.

“In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations, with tremendous costs for the entire world,” Azar said.

“We saw that WHO failed at its core mission of information sharing and transparency when member states do not act in good faith. This cannot ever happen again. The status quo is intolerable,” he added.

Contrary to most countries’ compliments to the WHO, Azar sent a critical message in his remarks, saying: “We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control: There was a failure by this organisation to obtain the information that the world needed.

“And that failure cost many lives,” Azar said.

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