US President Donald Trump(Bloomberg photo)
US President Donald Trump(Bloomberg photo)

Donald Trump shoots letter to WHO, threatens to exit world body

Underlining Washington’s escalating fight with Beijing, Trump said the WHO needs to show “independence from China”.
Hindustan Times, Washington/ Beijing | By Yashwant Raj & Agencies
UPDATED ON MAY 20, 2020 06:02 AM IST

US President Donald Trump on Monday threatened to pull America out of the World Health Organization (WHO) and permanently stop US funding for the world body if it did not “commit to major substantive improvements” in the next 30 days.

Underlining Washington’s escalating fight with Beijing, Trump said the WHO needs to show “independence from China”. He earlier labelled the WHO as a “puppet of China”.

In a letter to WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Trump accused the organisation of “repeated missteps” in responding to the pandemic.

Trump shared the letter on Twitter hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed the WHO’s governing body, the World Health Assembly, by video link. Xi promised to devote $2 billion towards fighting the pandemic over the next two years.

WHO head Tedros later said that he would keep leading the global fight against the pandemic.

Commenting on Trump’s letter, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said it was “full of insinuations” and aimed “to mislead the public and achieve the purpose of stigmatising China’s epidemic control efforts while shirking its own responsibility”. He said the US has an obligation to pay the full WHO membership fee.

“Arbitrarily cutting funding to an international organisation is unilateralist behaviour,” Zhao said. “We urge the US to stop passing the buck and deepen international cooperation.”

In the letter, Trump wrote, “It is clear repeated missteps by you and your organisation in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world. The only way forward for the organisation is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China.”

He also wrote that if the WHO “does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze on US funding permanent and reconsider our membership.”

Later, when Trump was asked about the reforms he wants the WHO to carry out, he said, “They have to clean up their act. They have to do a better job. They have to be much more fair to other countries, including the US, or we are not going to b involved with them any more and we will go our separate way.”

The US president had suspended US funding for the WHO - at more than $400 million annually - in April.

The US has exited a number of world bodies and pacts during Trump’s tenure, starting with the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017. It was followed by departures from Paris Accord, Unesco, Iran Nuclear Deal and UNHCR.

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