Donald Trump celebrated his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and blamed China for the “plague” the country “unleashed onto the world” in a speech delivered to the United Nations General Assembly in New York that was quickly decried by critics as a “virtual, campaign-like address”.
The president attacked Beijing and demanded the world hold the nation “accountable for their actions”, suggesting China inadequately responded to its first-known outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan.
“As we pursue this bright future, we must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China,” Mr Trump said in the pre-recorded remarks. “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 added: “The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions.”
The statements appeared to echo previous claims the president has made surrounding China’s effort to curb the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Trump has previously said he’s seen evidence suggesting the virus came from a lab in China, a theory that has been largely debunked by the international scientific community and refuted by his own intelligence agencies.
Susi Dennison from the European Council on Foreign Relations said in a statement sent to The Independent that she viewed the speech as Mr Trump being “desperate for ammunition” while vying for his re-election.
Trump has continued his policy of angry unilateralism” by “taking aim” at China in his speech, Ms Dennison said, adding how the president has “broken European citizens’ trust in the US”.
Mr Trump initially announced a ban on Chinese travellers from entering the US and declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency in mid-March, though experts have now said those efforts were not enough to prevent the virus from taking hold across the country. As the president spoke to the United Nations, the number of Americans who have died from Covid-19 was expected to continue rising beyond the toll of 200,000.
The president referred to Covid-19 as the “China virus” during his remarks at the UNGA, a term he has repeatedly used while blaming Beijing for the global pandemic.
Nearly one million people around the world have died due to complications resulting from the novel virus. In the US, the total number of infections was nearing seven million this week. There have been over 31 million total cases reported worldwide.
Mr Trump promoted his “America First” agenda at the UNGA in his remarks while saying he was confident the world would “defeat” the coronavirus pandemic. The president recorded the remarks from Washington rather than delivering his speech in New York as is tradition.
While speeches at the UNGA are typically apolitical in nature, the US president has consistently celebrated his agenda and touted his accomplishments while speaking at the global event. In 2018, Mr Trump received unexpected laughter from the crowd of world leaders as he claimed his administration “accomplished more than almost any” in history.
“For Trump, the priority is re-election. The damage to institutions and relationships, such as the UN and the Transatlantic Alliance, do not even register,” Ms Dennison said. “It’s little wonder, then, that after four years of verbal assault, fewer than one in ten Europeans believe the US can be trusted to provide leadership on global issues such as COVID-19.”