The United Nation’s General Assembly has produced its fair share of unique moments during its existence and the opening of the 2020 session did not disappoint. The omnipresent dispute between China and the US culminated in President Trump’s calling for the UN to hold China accountable for COVID-19.
Trump: China Must be ‘Held Accountable’ for Unleashing a ‘Plague’ on the World
The president reiterated his allegations against China for the global spread of the coronavirus. China needed to be “held accountable” for unleashing the “plague” on the world, and for not having stopped it, Trump said in his video message.
Trump also accused China and the World Health Organization of having incorrectly informed about the nature of the coronavirus’s spread. Both had initially stated that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus. Furthermore, later mistakenly stated that individuals without symptoms would not spread the disease.
WHO ‘Practically Controlled by China’
The intense tone against the WHO did not end there, however. The president also accused the WHO of being “practically controlled by China” and urged the United Nations to hold China accountable for its actions.
While the latter fits into the anti-China rhetoric the White House has implemented into its reelection campaign, it will remain without any UN repercussions. With China being one of the permanent Security Council members, it would veto any potentially binding resolution against Beijing.
The president’s words are nonetheless the most recent example of the significant deterioration in relations between Beijing in Washington over the previous months, partly due to the coronavirus.
US-China Relations at a Record Low
The conflict now affects almost every aspect of the relationship between the two. After punitive tariffs, Washington has begun to impose tough political sanctions. Recently, the dispute over the popular Chinese app Tiktok caused a stir.
It was hence fitting that at the start of the general debate on Tuesday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned of a “cold war” between the US and China. Both sides were moving into a “perilous direction”. The world cannot afford a future in which the two largest economies “split the globe” and cause an economic divide that had the potential to transform into a military one, Guterres said.
Trump went on to say that 75 years after the end of World War II and the founding of the United Nations, a major global struggle had once again emerged. Nonetheless, a bitter fight was waged against the “invisible enemy.” In the US, the pandemic had led to the most monumental mobilization since World War II, the president stated.
US Promises Coronavirus Vaccine Will be Released Soon
Trump also announced that they would soon have a vaccine, defeat the virus, and leave the pandemic behind before entering a “new era of unprecedented prosperity, cooperation and peace”.
Besides China and the pandemic, Trump furthermore underlined his administration’s efforts for peace. America was fulfilling its “destiny as a peacemaker,” but it was “peace through strength.” He highlighted the breakthrough in the agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Israel and the two Arab states have agreed to normalize their relations through Trump’s mediation.
A “peace agreement between Serbia and Kosovo” had also been reached, he claimed. However, while Serbia and Kosovo agreed to normalize their economic relations through the White House mediation, no peace agreement has been concluded at this point.
The High US Death Toll of COVID-19
According to the Johns Hopkins University, around 200,000 Americans have died after being infected with the virus in the USA since the beginning of the corona pandemic. In addition, there were more than 6.8 million confirmed infections with the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen in the country.
Due to the pandemic, this year’s General Assembly is taking place virtually. The representatives of all 193 member states — including well over 150 heads of state and government — did not speak as they normally would at the UN headquarters in New York, but instead utilized pre-recorded video speeches. This did nothing to stop the war of words, however.