In yet another interesting announcement on Friday, the US president Donald Trump said he is severing the relationship between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States.
“We will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and directing those funds to worldwide and deserving, urgent global public health needs,” he said during a White House press briefing.
A few days ago, the administration had outlined detailed conditions that must be met by the world health governing body for a chance for reconciliation with the US. But the WHO did not respond.
Trump has fallen out with the UN’s health agency as COVID-19 took a devastating toll on the United States, killing over 100,000 persons and plummeting the economy. He has blamed the WHO for not doing enough to quell the pestilence and most of fall, taking side with China that he believes was responsible for the outbreak of the virus.
Though in the onset, Trump praised China’s approach to the crisis saying he trusts the Asian giant has what it takes to confront the enemy, the unprecedented toll it took in the US changed his stance. Trump now believes that China is culpable and the WHO is their partner in crime.
“China’s cover-up of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread all over the world, instigating a global pandemic that has cost more than 100,000 American lives and over a million lives worldwide,” he said.
Trump’s distraught with the WHO has been largely based on the claim that the health body said it wasn’t necessary to initiate a travel ban when he wanted to. He said a ban would have prevented carriers of the virus from entering the United States from China, and that would have kept the impact to the barest minimum.
On January 31, the Trump’s administration announced the restriction of people entering the US from China, but the WHO said that such a ban is not necessary because it may not help to contain the spread and may lead to social and economic crisis.
In his push for China to take responsibility for the COVID-19 outbreak, Trump was hoping that the WHO would support his claims which includes that the virus was developed in a Chinese lab. The health organization’s failure to back up his claims appears to have hiked his discountenance for it, furthering his belief that China has pressured the WHO to mislead the world.
In February, Trump proposed slashing the US contribution to the WHO in half, from $122.6 million the previous fiscal year to $57.9 million. In April, he announced that the United States government would halt its funding to the World Health Organization. The development followed the rising belief among conservatives that the WHO is being too friendly with China. Trump has earlier demanded that the organization change its perceived friendly attitude with China as a sign that it is neutrally doing its job.
WHO’s failure to dance to his tone put it at the center of his blame game and consequently retaliatory actions.
The US relationship with China has deteriorated since Trump became the president, evidenced by the escalation of the trade war between the two countries, and he is seeing anyone who has a good relationship with China as an enemy too.
China’s recent interference in Hong Kong’s political unrest, imposing strict political crackdown laws that would trample civil rights and reflect its communist rules, has put Hong Kong in the way of the US. Trump said Hong Kong’s role as a global financial center has been jeopardized by the development and its preferential treatment will be revoked.
“I am directing my administration to begin the process of eliminating policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment.
“We will be revising the state departments’ travel advisory for Hong Kong to reflect the increased danger of surveillance and punishment by the Chinese state security apparatus. We will take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China,” he said.
This is coming at the same time when the Trump administration has announced its intention to cancel the visas of thousands of Chinese graduate students and researchers in the US who have direct ties to universities affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army.
These events appear to have been triggered by the coronavirus crisis and it has escalated the existing tension between China and the United States. Multilateral organizations are getting caught up in the economic and political tussle, and WHO seems to be just a victim.