Trump says UN must 'hold China accountable' for Covid-19

Updated 22 Sep 2020

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US President Donald Trump is seen on a screen through a window to an empty conference room as he delivers a pre-recorded address to the 75th annual UN General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, US, September 22. — Reuters
US President Donald Trump is seen on a screen through a window to an empty conference room as he delivers a pre-recorded address to the 75th annual UN General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, US, September 22. — Reuters

US President Donald Trump told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday that China must be held accountable by the world for its actions over the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a recorded message played to the annual meeting of the UN, Trump accused Beijing of allowing the coronavirus to “leave China and infect the world”.

“The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions,” he said.

Trump, who faces a difficult reelection fight on November 3, has sought to deflect overwhelming voter criticism of his handling of the pandemic by blaming China.

Broadcast over a large screen in the UN General Assembly hall, the US president effectively transferred his hawkish campaign stump speech to the global stage.

“We must hold accountable the nation that released this plague upon the world,” he said.

Trump accused China of only looking after its own interests when the potentially lethal virus first appeared in the city of Wuhan late last year.

And he said “the Chinese government, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) — which is virtually controlled by China — falsely declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.”

“Later, they falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease,” he added.

World leaders are speaking virtually to the UN session in New York, due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Trump, who has frequently downplayed the risks posed by the virus, had previously said he would visit anyway, before apparently changing his mind.

China's Xi says no intention to fight 'a Cold War or hot one' with any country

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that Beijing has “no intention to fight either a Cold War or a hot one with any country".

“We will continue to narrow differences and resolve disputes with others through dialogue and negotiation. We will not seek to develop only ourselves or engage in zero sum game,” Xi said in a pre-recorded video statement to the annual gathering of world leaders.

“Facing the virus, we should enhance solidarity and get through this together. We should follow the guidance of science, give full play to the leading role of the WHO,” Xi said. “Any attempt of politicising the issue or stigmatisation must be rejected.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the 193-member General Assembly earlier on Tuesday that everything must be done to avoid a new Cold War, warning that “we are moving in a very dangerous direction.”

“Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a great fracture,” he said.

“A technological and economic divide risks inevitably turning into a geo-strategic and military divide. We must avoid this at all costs.”