China goes after US over more than $1 billion owed to the UN
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China goes after US over more than $1 billion owed to the UN

Beijing says Washington owes funds both to regular and peacekeeping budgets; US responds that it is trying to distract from virus pandemic

In this file photo taken on June 29, 2019, China's President Xi Jinping (R) greets US President Donald Trump before a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP)
Illustrative: View of the United Nations General Assembly during a vote the US-imposed embargo on Cuba on November 7, 2019. (Evan Schneider/ UN)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — China is going after the United States over more than $1 billion that the Trump administration owes the United Nations in unpaid dues for its regular operating budget and arrears for the separate budget for the UN’s far-flung peacekeeping operations.

The unusual singling out of the US non-payment by China’s UN mission comes as President Donald Trump continues to accuse Beijing of not being open about the coronavirus when cases were initially reported in December and early January.

A US Mission spokesperson said China “is eager to distract attention from its cover-up and mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis, and this is yet another example.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in early April that the United Nations faced a cash crisis because of non-payment of dues by member states, which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press briefing at United Nations Headquarters in New York City, on February 4, 2020. (Angela Weiss / AFP)

He said in a letter to the UN’s 193 member nations that “unpredictable cash inflows, exacerbated by the global crisis posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, seriously threaten” the UN’s ability to do its work. He announced a temporary hiring freeze and urged all countries to pay their past and present dues.

China’s UN Mission said its acting deputy ambassador, Yao Shaojun, spoke at a UN General Assembly’s budget committee meeting Thursday titled “Improving the Financial Situation of the United Nations,” and stressed the importance of all UN member nations fulfilling their financial obligations, citing the US arrears.

“Facing tremendous economic and fiscal pressure from the COVID-19 outbreak, China, the second largest contributor to the UN regular budget and peacekeeping budget, has managed to pay all assessed contributions in full,” the mission quoted Yao as saying. “It shows China’s concrete support to the cause of the UN and the work of the secretary-general.”

The United States funds 25% of the regular UN budget, while China pays 12%. Of the 193 member nations, 91 had paid their dues in full as of May 13. China paid $336.78 million for the regular budget on May 1.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday there is still $1.62 billion unpaid for the UN’s 2020 regular budget and $2.12 billion outstanding for the peacekeeping budget. He did not give the US arrears.

In this Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018 photo, UN peacekeepers hold their flag, as they observe Israeli excavators working near the southern border village of Mays al-Jabal, Lebanon. (AP/Hussein Malla)

China’s Yao called the United States “the largest debtor,” saying it owed about $1.16 billion to the regular budget and $1.3 billion to the peacekeeping budget.

The US Mission spokesperson, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the United States recently made a payment of $726 million toward its peacekeeping assessment “and per practice will pay the bulk of its assessment at the end of the calendar year.”

Because the US fiscal year runs from October to September, not January to December, it has always paid UN dues late in the year.

The US-China dispute has been escalating over the pandemic, which has circled the globe causing over 300,000 deaths.

A medical worker records a patient’s condition at Jinyintan Hospital designated for new coronavirus infected patients, in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province, February 16, 2020. (Chinatopix via AP)

Trump suspended US funding to the World Health Organization in early April, accusing the UN health agency of failing to stop the virus from spreading when it first surfaced in China. He said the agency “must be held accountable,” accusing the WHO of parroting Beijing.

The US-China dispute over the WHO has blocked the UN Security Council, the global organizations’s most powerful body, from adopting any resolution on the pandemic.

China strongly supports the WHO and has insisted the agency’s role in tackling the pandemic be included in any resolution. The US insists on making no mention of the WHO and including a reference to “transparency” on the coronavirus outbreak, which China opposes.

China’s UN Mission said Beijing has decided to donate $30 million more to the WHO in addition to the $20 million it already gave the agency to support its work on COVID-19.

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