China on Tuesday accused President Donald Trump of using it “as an issue” to shift the blame from his incompetent response to contain the coronavirus at home, hours after he threatened to pull the US out of the World Health Organisation if it failed to demonstrate “independence” from China.
“The US tries to use China as an issue to shift responsibility and bargain on its international obligations to WHO, which is a miscalculation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here.
He was responding to questions on Mr. Trump’s letter to World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus threatening to “permanently freeze” the US funding to the UN health agency if it failed to demonstrate its “independence” from China in the next 30 days.
“The US leadership’s open letter is full of vague expressions such as probably etc,” Mr. Zhao said.
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“It tries to mislead the public to smear China and shift the blame from its own incompetent response to stop the spread of the virus in the US,” he said.
“It is futile. Currently, COVID-19 is still spreading in the US and many other places,” he said, adding that the US politicians should stop the blame game and work with the international community to stop the spread of the virus.
He also sought to dismiss Mr. Trump’s threat to permanently freeze US contribution to the WHO and highlighted China’s increasing contributions to the global body.
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Mr. Zhao said the WHO membership contributions are jointly determined by the member States.
“It cannot be determined by US itself. Paying assessed contributions on time is the obligation of the member states of WHO,” he said.
“It could not be bargained,” he said, adding that the US’s unilateral threat to stop funding is a violation of its own international obligation in the midst of a pandemic.
He said besides paying its assessed contribution to the WHO, China has provided $50 million donation to fight coronavirus and referred to President Xi Jinping’s announcement on Monday to provide $2 billion fund to help countries hit by the COVID-19.
Mr. Zhao said China will continue to support the WHO’s work.
“We call on the international community to enhance political and funding support for WHO in order to defeat the virus,” he said.
Addressing the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) on Monday, President Xi heaped praise on the UN health agency and its chief Mr. Ghebreyesus.
The WHO should lead the global response against COVID-19, said Xi, who is also the General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China.
“Under the leadership of Dr. Tedros, WHO has made a major contribution in leading and advancing the global response to COVID-19. Its good work is applauded by the international community. China calls on the international community to increase political and financial support for WHO so as to mobilize resources worldwide to defeat the virus,” he said.
The WHA is the decision-making body of the Geneva-based World Health Organisation. The annual meeting, being held virtually on Monday and Tuesday, is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board.
More than 310,000 people have died due to the coronavirus pandemic and over 4.8 million people infected around the world. The US is the worst-hit country with over 90,000 deaths and over 1.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.