NEW YORK • US President Donald Trump assailed China for the coronavirus pandemic in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, calling on the international body to punish Beijing.
“In the earliest days of the virus, China locked down travel domestically while allowing flights to leave China and infect the world,” Mr Trump said in the speech, which was recorded on Monday at the White House and delivered to the UN session which is being held mostly virtually because of Covid-19.
“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.”
“The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions,” Mr Trump said.
Mr Trump has ramped up US tensions with China in recent months in an attempt to portray himself as tougher towards the country’s leaders than his re-election opponent, former vice-president Joe Biden, and to deflect blame for the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, the largest in the world.
Mr Biden has accused Mr Trump of turning a blind eye to the virus’ spread from China as he sought to close his so-called “phase one” trade deal with Beijing in January.
More than 200,000 Americans have died of Covid-19.
Most voters give Mr Trump poor marks for his administration’s response to the pandemic, jeopardising his re-election bid.
Mr Trump, who pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, also attacked China for its carbon emissions as well as dumping of plastic. He has drawn international criticism for withdrawing the country from the Paris pact negotiated by his predecessor.
“Those who attack America’s exceptional environmental record while ignoring China’s rampant pollution are not interested in the environment. They only want to punish America. And I will not stand for it.”
The Trump administration has also launched a global campaign against the influence of China, pushing back on its claims in the South China Sea and warning nations of the risks of accepting its lavish infrastructure spending.
It has also sanctioned Chinese officials over their treatment of Muslim minorities, as well as removed special trade benefits enjoyed by Hong Kong.
BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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