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08 August
Saturday

World

Trump calls world health body 'puppet of China'

Trump said China only pays about $40 million a year and one idea was for Washington to bring "our 450

Donald Trump Photo: nytimes.com

/NOVOSTIVL/ The World Health Organization said on Monday an independent review of the global coronavirus response would begin as soon as possible and it received backing and a hefty pledge of funds from China, in the spotlight as the origin of the pandemic.

But the WHO's chief critic, the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump, decried an "apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak by at least one member state". Trump said later in Washington that the WHO, which he called a "puppet of China", had "done a very sad job" in its handling of the coronavirus and he would make a decision about U.S. funding to the body soon.

"The United States pays them $450 million a year; China pays them $38 million a year. And they're a puppet of China. They're China-centric, to put it nicer, but they're a puppet of China," Trump told reporters at a White House event.

Trump has already suspended U.S. funding for the WHO after accusing it of being too China-centric, and at the same time led international criticism of Beijing's perceived lack of transparency in the early stages of the crisis.

Health Secretary Alex Azar did not mention China by name, but made clear Washington considered the WHO jointly responsible. "We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control," he said. "There was a failure by this organization to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives."

Speaking after Azar, Chinese Health Minister Ma Xiaowei said Beijing had been timely and open in announcing the outbreak and sharing the virus's full gene sequence, and urged countries to "oppose rumours, stigmatisation and discrimination".

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $2 billion over the next two years to help deal with COVID-19, especially in developing countries.

The amount almost matches the WHO's entire annual programme budget for last year, and more than compensates for Trump's freeze of U.S. payments worth about $400 million a year.

But White House National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot called it "a token to distract from calls from a growing number of nations demanding accountability for the Chinese government's failure to... warn the world of what was coming".

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