FILE PHOTO: Healthcare workers wearing personal protection equipment (PPE) take a food delivery outside Elmhurst Hospital Center, as the spread of COVID-19 continues, in the Queens borough of New York City.
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump attacked the United Nations health body as a Chinese “puppet” on Monday (May 18) and confirmed he is considering slashing or cancelling US support.
“They’re a puppet of China, they’re China-centric to put it nicer,” he said at the White House.
Trump said the United States pays around US$450 million annually to the World Health Organization (WHO), the largest contribution of any country. Plans are being crafted to slash this because “we’re not treated right”.
“They gave us a lot of bad advice,” he said of the WHO.
Trump also threatened to permanently freeze US funding to the WHO unless “substantive improvements” were made in the next 30 days.
Washington suspended funding to the WHO in mid-April, accusing it of being too close to Beijing and covering up and mismanaging the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, Trump tweeted images of a letter he sent to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying the letter was “self-explanatory.”
In the letter, Trump lists what he says are examples of the WHO’s shortcomings in managing the pandemic, including ignoring early reports of the emergence of the virus, and being too close to China.
“It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world. The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,” Trump said in the letter.
“If the World Health Organization does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider our membership in the organization,” he said.
Earlier on Monday, the WHO said it would launch an independent review of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
During a virtual assembly, Tedros acknowledged there had been shortcomings and told the assembly he welcomed calls for a review.
Trump spoke as the WHO held its first annual assembly since the pandemic swept the world after originating in China, causing massive economic disruption and killing 316,000 people – close to a third of them in the United States.
Trump said China only pays about US$40 million a year and one idea was for Washington to bring “our 450 down to 40”, but “some people thought that was too much”.