China has defended the World Health Organisation (WHO) and condemned the United States’s decision to withdraw from the global agency.
President Donald Trump had criticised WHO over its response to the coronavirus pandemic. He accused the agency of not promptly announcing the virus which have now infected over three million Americans.
Earlier, Trump said in a White House announcement that WHO bowed to Chinese influence and that Chinese officials “ignored” their reporting obligations to WHO and pressured the organization to mislead the public about an outbreak.
However, China reiterated at the U.S decision to withdraw from the UN body, adding to a litany of disputes between the world’s largest economies and increasing geopolitical rivals.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the move was “another demonstration of the US pursuing unilateralism, withdrawing from groups and breaking contracts.”
WHO is “the most authoritative and professional international institution in the field of global public health security,” Zhao said at a briefing Wednesday, adding that the U.S. departure would particularly hurt developing countries in need of international support.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Beijing’s response to the virus outbreak showed the ruling Communist Party has an “enormous credibility problem” and that its actions fitted a pattern of behaviour that threatens freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.
“I am convinced more than ever that the free peoples of the world will come to understand the threat that’s presented not only internally inside of China, but importantly, that the impact that General Secretary Xi has on the world is not good for free peoples and democracy-loving peoples,” Pompeo told reporters.
The Trump administration formally notified the UN on Monday of its withdrawal from WHO, although the pullout won’t take effect until July 6, 2021.
This, however, means it could be reversed by a new administration or if circumstances change.
Former U.S Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said he would reverse the decision on his first day in office if elected.
Health officials and critics of Trump’s administration say the withdrawal would cost the US influence in the global arena while undermining an important institution that is leading vaccine development efforts and drug trials to address the coronavirus.
The US is WHO’s largest donor and provides it with more than $450 million per year, but owes about $200 million in current and past dues.