President Trump on Tuesday told the United Nations that it must hold China accountable for its failure to contain the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic — and declared the World Health Organization "controlled" by Beijing.
“The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions,” Trump told the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, separately calling the virus "The China Virus."
The administration has long blamed Beijing for its botched handling of the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China before becoming a worldwide pandemic, and has called on the international community to join in its own efforts to investigate China’s actions.
“In the earliest days of the virus, China locked down travel domestically while allowing flights to leave China and infect the world,” Trump said, noting also its opposition to the travel restrictions he placed on China.
The World Health Organization, from which the U.S. has begun withdrawing, was also under fire from the president for allegedly echoing talking points from the Chinese government — information that turned out to be false.
“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,” he said. “Later, they falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease.”
He also contrasted China’s handling with that of America, who he said is leading the charge to find a vaccine and end the pandemic.
"We pioneered lifesaving treatments, reducing our fatality rate 85 percent since April. Thanks to our efforts, three vaccines are in the final stage of clinical trials," he said. "We are mass-producing them in advance so they can be delivered immediately. Upon arrival, we will distribute the vaccine."
Beyond the pandemic, he also called on the U.N. and others to focus on the “real problems” in the world and stop criticizing America on issues such as the environment. He said China's carbon emissions are twice as high as the U.S.' and accused it of dumping tons of plastic into the ocean and overfishing.
“Those who attack America’s exceptional environmental record while ignoring China’s rampant pollution are not interested in the environment,” he said. “They only want to punish America. And I will not stand for it.
"If the United Nations is to be an effective organization, it must focus on the real problems of the world. This includes terrorism, the oppression of women, forced labor, drug trafficking, human and sex trafficking, religious persecution and the ethnic cleansing of religious minorities," he said.
He also touted the recent peace agreements brokered by the U.S. in the Balkans and the Middle East. Recently there have been agreements between Serbia and Kosovo, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, and Bahrain and Israel. Trump promised that his administration would deliver more deals "shortly."
He attributed the deals to his administration "taking a different approach" and said that as a result, it has achieved "superior outcomes."
Trump's pre-recorded speech, less than 10 minutes, is in contrast to the much longer addresses he has given at the world body in the past — where world leaders gather in person to meet, discuss and speak in the large General Assembly Hall. But the General Assembly is largely virtual this year due to the coronavirus restrictions.
However, Trump tapped into many of the same themes he has touched on in past addresses, including America's successes under his administration, and repeated his call for countries to put their own people first.
"For decades, the same tired voices propose the same failed solutions, pursuing global ambitions at the expense of their own people, but only when you take care of your own citizens will you find a true basis for cooperation," he 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."