Trump blasts China on coronavirus in UN speech
President Trump on Tuesday adopted a strong stance against China in recorded remarks to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, blaming Beijing for the coronavirus that has killed nearly 200,000 Americans and almost 1 million globally.
“As we pursue this bright future, we must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China,” Trump said in a statement to the U.N. meeting that was filmed Monday from Washington.
“The Chinese government and the World Health Organization [WHO], which is virtually controlled by China, falsely declared that there was no evidence of human to human transmission,” Trump continued, also blaming China and the WHO for disseminating false information about the asymptomatic spread of the virus.
“The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions,” Trump continued.
Trump boasted about his administration’s response to the virus, as the domestic death toll crept toward 200,000. He touted efforts to produce ventilators and quickly produce a vaccine, which Trump has explicitly hinted could be ready just before the November election.
Trump described the world as engaged in a “global struggle” against the “China virus,” a phrase he regularly uses to refer to the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, and declared that the international community will ‘defeat” the pandemic.
The president has for months hammered China over its role in the spread of COVID-19, at times questioning if the country intentionally allowed it to spread and blaming Beijing and the WHO for early missteps and a lack of communication.
But the president has largely ignored criticism that he had praised Chinese President Xi Jinping in the early days of the pandemic for his transparency, and audio tapes released earlier this month showed that he was aware in February that the virus was “deadly” even as he downplayed its severity in public.
According to recent polling, a substantial majority of the American public disapproves of Trump’s handling of the virus, and the pandemic has taken center stage in the 2020 campaign.
The United States has reported roughly 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 and nearly 7 million infections, both the most of any country in the world.
Trump has campaigned on taking a tough stance toward China, engaging in a trade war with Beijing for a considerable part of his first term.
Relations between the U.S. and China seemed to thaw at the beginning of this year as they agreed on a phase one trade agreement, however, Trump has stalled future trade negotiations over his criticism of China’s handling of the virus.
Trump was not physically in New York for the U.N. meeting. Instead, world leaders delivered remarks virtually due to the pandemic.
Trump was introduced by the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft, who hailed the administration’s role in brokering the normalization of relations between the Arab nations of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
The president’s speech was full of the types of appeals to nationalism that has become a hallmark of his United Nations appearances. He called into question the value of collaborative efforts like the Paris Climate Accords, arguing they were part of an effort to “punish America.”
And he urged other world leaders to follow his “America first” mantra and apply it to their own nations.
“Only when you take care of your own citizens will you find a true basis for cooperation,” Trump said. “As president, I have rejected the failed approaches of the past and I am proudly putting America first. Just as you should be putting your countries first.”