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Trump slams China, WHO for COVID-19 spread at virtual United Nations gathering

Trump slams China, WHO for COVID-19 spread at virtual United Nations gathering
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE railed against China while addressing the United Nations general assembly on Tuesday, calling for the global body to hold Beijing accountable for the coronavirus pandemic that has made the gathering like no other in its history.

Speaking in pre-recorded remarks to the largely virtual assembly, Trump said the U.S. had gone to war against “the invisible enemy, the China virus” and listed a number of grievances as evidence of Beijing’s responsibility for the global spread of COVID-19. 

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

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Nearly 1 million people globally have died from the virus, according to the latest data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, and that includes over 200,000 deaths in the U.S., the highest recorded fatality number of any country.

Trump also blasted the World Health Organization (WHO), the global health body of the U.N. The president terminated the U.S. relationship with the WHO in May over its handling of the pandemic.

“The Chinese government and the World Health Organization — which is virtually controlled by China — falsely declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission,” the president said.

The WHO warned on January 14 of "limited" human-to-human transmission in its observation of small clusters of the disease between some families. Chinese officials acknowledged on January 20 human-to-human transmission of the disease.

The Chinese representative to the U.N., Zhang Jun, speaking shortly after Trump, rejected as “baseless” accusations against China and called for cooperation and “not spreading of a political virus.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who also addressed the global body in recorded remarks, reiterated calls for dialogue and “positive” competition.

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“China is the largest developing country in the world, a country that is committed to peaceful open cooperative and common development,” Xi said in translated remarks. “We will never seek hegemony expansion or sphere of influence. We have no intention to fight either a cold war or a hot one with any country.”

The remarks by Trump and Xi, while pre-recorded and occurring on separate continents, marks one of the first confrontations between the two leaders amid spiraling diplomatic relations.

In August, Trump said that he had not spoken to Xi in “a long time” and while high-level meetings between U.S. and Chinese officials occurred in June, it’s unclear if the two leaders have had any direct communication.

The rise of the pandemic effectively ended negotiations for a "phase two" trade deal, and the administration accelerated its campaign against Beijing for what it describes as long-overdue retaliatory measures responding to Chinese restrictions on Americans and predatory actions in the U.S.

The Trump administration has also imposed sanctions on Chinese officials related to human rights violations against the minority Uighur Muslim population in Xinjiang, China's imposition of a national security law in Hong Kong and China’s actions in the South China Sea.

Chinese officials have attacked Trump administration officials as liars while calling allegations against China fabrications and smear campaigns.

Trump has made his criticism of China a big part of his reelection campaign. Polls show him trailing Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Obama: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' MORE amid surveys showing a majority of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of the pandemic.