Tensions between China and the US spilled out on the world stage on Tuesday as Donald Trump told the UN General Assembly that Beijing must be held accountable for its actions over the Covid-19 pandemic.
The US president accused China of allowing the coronavirus to “leave China and infect the world” and urged the international community to take action, in a recorded message played to the annual meeting of the UN.
“The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions,” Mr Trump said, referring to Covid-19 as the “China virus”.
He accused China of not sharing timely information with the world on the new disease and criticised its decision not to stop international flights.
“In the earliest days of the virus, China locked down travel domestically while allowing flights to leave China and infect the world,” he said in a short message delivered to the UN in New York.
“The Chinese government, and the World Health Organisation – which is virtually controlled by China – falsely declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.”
Mr Trump has directed his administration to withdraw from the WHO, which he accuses of being a puppet of China.
The WHO is an independent international body that works with the UN.
Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, opening the 75th session of the General Assembly, the first ever to go virtual, urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the US and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the pandemic.
“We are moving in a very dangerous direction. Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a Great Fracture – each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities,” he said, without saying the United States and China by name.
World powers have been kept at home this year by the coronavirus pandemic that will likely be a dominant theme at their video gathering. The pandemic has now killed over 960,000 people worldwide.
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