WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Tuesday used his speech to the United Nations General Assembly to level a withering series of attacks against China, calling on the global organization to hold Beijing accountable for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as Beijing’s record on environmental and human rights issues.
“We must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China,” Trump told the UN in a seven-minute, pre-recorded speech. “In the earliest days of the virus, China locked down traveled domestically, while allowing flights to leave China and infect the world.”
His comments came after UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the world was moving in a “dangerous direction” and must do all that it can to prevent a new Cold War between the U.S. and China.
“Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a great fracture – each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities,” Guterres said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed the general assembly shortly after Trump. He called for global cooperation in defeating the COVID-19 pandemic and said “any attempt of politicizing the issue or stigmatization must be rejected,” according to the simultaneous translation of his remarks.
Tensions have flared between the U.S. and China on a number of issues, ranging from the coronavirus pandemic and election meddling to trade and accusations of espionage.
Trump again referred to COVID-19 as the “China Virus,” a term that many Asians find offensive. And he attacked the World Health Organization, which the U.S. has begun withdrawing from, for being “virtually controlled by China.”
The president also called on other world leaders to stop criticizing America’s environmental record “while ignoring China’s rapid pollution.”
“If the United Nations is to be an effective organization, it must focus on the real problems of the world,” Trump said. “This includes terrorism, the oppression of women, forced labor, drug trafficking, human and sex trafficking, religious persecution, and the ethnic cleansing of religious minorities.”
The UN General Assembly typically attracts heads of state and foreign ministers from around the world to the body’s New York headquarters. But this year’s meeting – which marks the UN’s 75th anniversary – is mostly virtual because of the pandemic
Trump touted his “America First” foreign policy and urged other countries to put their nation’s interests above global concerns.
“I am proudly putting America first, just as you should be putting your country’s first,” he added. That’s OK. That’s what you should be doing.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump blasts China for coronavirus pandemic in UN speech