The European Union’s top foreign policy representative on Wednesday denounced President Donald Trump’s decision to suspend US funding for the World Health Organization.
“Deeply regret US decision to suspend funding to WHO,” High Representative Josep Borrell said in a tweet.
“There is no reason justifying this move at a moment when their efforts are needed more than ever to help contain and mitigate the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
“Only by joining forces we can overcome this crisis that knows no borders.”
Trump on Tuesday accused the Geneva-based body of putting political correctness above life-saving measures as he ordered the funding freeze for “mismanaging” the pandemic.
China said Wednesday it was “seriously concerned” about the US decision and urged Washington to fulfill its obligations during the coronavirus crisis.
“China is seriously concerned about the US announcement to suspend funding for the World Health Organization,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing.
“The current global epidemic situation is grim. It is at a critical moment. This US decision will weaken WHO’s capacities and undermine the international cooperation against the epidemic.”
The US and China have been sparring over the deadly virus, which was first reported in China and has killed more than 125,000 worldwide.
Trump’s latest decision reflects his belief that the WHO has been biased towards China, colluding to prevent the US’ main economic rival from having to be open about the unfolding health crisis.
“We urge the United States to earnestly fulfill their responsibilities and obligations, and support the WHO-led international action against the epidemic,” Zhao said, adding that the agency plays an “irreplaceable role” against the pandemic.
The US is the biggest funder of the WHO, providing it $400 million last year.
Asked if China is prepared to contribute more to make up the shortfall, now that the US is halting funding, Zhao said Beijing has provided $20 million to the UN body.
“China has always supported the leading role played by the WHO in the international fight against the epidemic… China will look into the relevant issues depending on the needs of the situation,” he said.
Germany slammed the US decision as Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned against “blaming others” for the coronavirus crisis.
“Blaming others won’t help. The virus knows no borders,” Maas wrote on Twitter.
“One of the best investments is to strengthen the UN, above all the under-financed WHO… in the development and distribution of tests and vaccines.”
Maas has previously taken aim at the Trump administration’s reaction to the virus crisis.
In an interview with Der Spiegel magazine last week, he said the United States had “played down the virus for a very long time.”
“There really isn’t any dispute, even in the USA, that many of the measures were taken too late,” he told Der Spiegel.
Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the decision was “indefensible.”
“This is indefensible decision, in midst of global pandemic. So many vulnerable populations rely on WHO — deliberately undermining funding and trust now is shocking. Now is a time for global leadership and unity to save lives, not division and blame!” he tweeted.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who stepped down from the company’s board recently to focus on philanthropy, and whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged up to $100 million to contain the pandemic, said Trump’s decision is “as dangerous as it sounds.”