White House advisor Jared Kushner (center) and others wear face masks while attending a press briefing about coronavirus testing in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 11, 2020.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • On May 11, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, senior advisor Jared Kushner and other Trump administration staff wore face masks that had "Made in Taiwan" stitched into them, according to The Atlantic.
  • The masks were among 500,000 donated to the US by the Taiwanese government.
  • The move could be viewed as a diplomatic win for Taiwan, which has been barred from the World Health Organisation because of objections from China.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Three tiny words stitched into the bottom of face masks worn by key members of President Donald Trump's administration could signal a diplomatic success for Taiwan.

On May 11, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, and Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner wore surgical face masks that had "Made in Taiwan" stitched into them, according to The Atlantic.

All White House officials other than Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have been ordered to wear masks at work at all times, except when they were at their desks, The Wall Street Journal reported. The order came after two aides tested positive for the coronavirus.

A White House source confirmed the masks seen in the Rose Garden on May 11 had been donated by the Taiwanese government, CNA reported.

According to The Atlantic's Timothy McLaughlin, Trump's advisers wore the masks as "a form of political statement, proof that Taiwan's recent barrage of health-care diplomacy was reaching the highest levels of the US government."

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told The Atlantic that the Taiwanese "are very happy that face masks donated by Taiwan are being put to good use."

In mid-April, The Washington Post reported Taiwan had donated 500,000 masks to the US after state officials scrambled to get masks before publicly recommending their use. The White House kept 3,600 of the 500,000 masks for officials and staff.

Taiwan has delivered millions of masks all around the world, according to Taiwan News. It was aiming to make 19 million masks each day by mid-May.

The prominent use of Taiwanese masks by the highest US officials comes as Taiwan is being excluded from international groups because of China's objections. Chinese policy maintains Taiwan is not a country but a breakaway province that is still part of "one China."

But since Taiwan has been effectively handling the coronavirus, other nations - including the US - have called for it to rejoin the World Health Organisation as an observer state.

New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said inviting Tawain back into WHO was "just logic." "They have got something to teach the world and every country, including China, must surely want to know the secret of their success," Peters said, according to public radio broadcaster RNZ.

In response a spokesperson for the Chinese government warned New Zealand to "stop spreading rumours and creating trouble," Business Insider previously reported.

Wu told The Atlantic it was a positive sign that more countries were speaking up for Taiwan. "They are not backing down in the face of Chinese pressure," he said.

However, he added, it was unlikely Taiwan would be invited to attend the World Health Assembly, WHO's decision-making body.

"The World Health Organisation, especially the secretariat … seems to have very close connections with the Chinese authorities," Wu said.

As of May 19, Taiwan has had only 440 reported cases of Covid-19 and 7 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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