President Trump is ramping up his attacks on the World Health Organization, threatening Monday to pull out of the international organization and permanently freeze U.S. funding. This came as the WHO’s annual global meeting took place. Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $2 billion to help international efforts to combat the virus, which the U.S. slammed as an attempt to stave off criticism of China’s handling of the pandemic. Beijing, meanwhile, is accusing the U.S. of shifting blame for its own mishandling of the crisis. In a video message, President Xi backed calls for an independent review into the WHO’s response to the coronavirus and defended his own government’s actions, saying it acted with “transparency” and “openness.” The director-general of the WHO confirmed a review of the agency’s response would take place as soon as possible. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar took aim at both the WHO and China.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar: “In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations, with tremendous costs for the entire world. We saw that WHO failed at its core mission of information sharing and transparency when member states do not act in good faith. This cannot ever happen again.”
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres defended the importance of the global health agency, calling it “irreplaceable,” particularly for developing nations. “The Global North cannot defeat COVID-19 unless the Global South defeats it at the same time,” said Guterres at the meeting.