Trump assails China over virus in UN speech as Xi pushes back

Bloomberg September 22 | Updated on September 22, 2020

US President Donald Trump (file pic)   -  AP

US President Donald Trump assailed China for the coronavirus pandemic in a speech Tuesday to the United Nations General Assembly aimed squarely at US voters, calling on the international body to punish Beijing. China’s president pushed back.

In the earliest days of the virus, China locked down travel domestically while allowing flights to leave China and infect the world, Trump said in a pre-recorded speech. 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 United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions, Trump said.

China’s President Xi Jinping rebutted Trump’s claims without mentioning the US president by name. Speaking after Trump in another pre-recorded video, Xi said the global fight against the virus should not be politicised and warned that no country can gain from others’ difficulties.

Trump has ramped up tensions with Beijing in recent months, attempting to portray himself as tougher toward the country’s leaders than his re-election opponent, former Vice-President Joe Biden, and to deflect blame for the US coronavirus outbreak, which has killed 200,000 Americans.

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has accused Trump of turning a blind eye to the virus’ spread from China as he sought to close his phase one trade deal with Beijing in January. Most voters give Trump poor marks for his administration’s response to the pandemic, jeopardizing his re-election bid.The Trump administration has made a number of antagonistic moves toward China in recent months, including sanctioning Chinese officials over their treatment of Muslim minorities, removing special trade benefits enjoyed by Hong Kong, closing the Chinese consulate in Houston and announcing plans to restrict Chinese visas for journalists and students.

Trump also is seeking to force the spin-off of the US operations of TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned short video app.

Xi offered a more traditional speech to the annual UN assembly, repeating previous talking points on the country’s commitment to free trade and globalization. The world will never return to isolation, and no one can sever the ties between countries, he said.

Xi also pledged to help fight climate change and provide additional funding for UN projects, saying that major countries should act like major countries. Specifically, he said China aims to have carbon dioxide emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

Trump widened his criticism of China to include the country’s environmental record. The American president has drawn international criticism for withdrawing the US from the Paris climate accords negotiated by his predecessor.

Those who attack America’s exceptional environmental record while ignoring China’s rampant pollution are not interested in the environment,Trump said. “They only want to punish America. And I will not stand for it”.

Trump’s speech barely addressed the biggest issue dividing the US from most of the rest of the world: its insistence that international sanctions be restored against Iran. Trump mentioned the Iran nuclear issue only in passing.

“We withdrew from the terrible Iran nuclear seal and imposed crippling sanctions on the world’s leading state sponsor of terror,” he said.

Copyright2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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Published on September 22, 2020
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