United Nations general assembly: US blasts China in virtual address

Keystone/AP UNTV

US President Donald Trump takes aim at the “China virus” and asserts he is "proudly putting America first".

US President Donald Trump attacked China's handling of the coronavirus pandemic in a statement on Tuesday to the UN general assembly.

In a pre-recorded message delivered on the opening day of the UN General Debate, President Trump's opening words referred to Covid-19 as the “China virus”, stating “we must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world - China . ”

Trump stated China allowed the virus to “infect the world” by not locking down international travel immediately and took a swipe at the country's relationship with the World Health Organisation (WHO), claiming the two made “false” declarations regarding the nature and transmission of Covid-19 .

He also took aim at China's environmental footprint and carbon emissions, accusing climate activists of “ignoring China”.

“Those that attack America's environmental record while ignoring China's rampant pollution are not interested in the environment, they only want to punish America and I will not stand for it,” he said.

Following his inflammatory opening remarks, Trump went on to tout the success of the United States’ peace deals with the Middle East, as well as the country’s economic performance and military prowess, stating “we have the most powerful military in the world, and it's not even close.”

In his closing statement, the President appeared to take a swipe at the UN, and set himself in stark contrast to the many other leaders who reaffirmed their commitment to multilateralism in yesterday's celebration of the UN's 75th anniversary:

“For decades the same tired voices propose the same failed solutions, pursuing global ambitions at the expense of their own people. But only when you take care of your own citizens will you find a true basis for cooperation. As president, I have rejected the failed approaches of the past, and I am proudly putting America first, just as you should be putting your countries first. ”- President Donald Trump.

President Xi Jinping. Credit: Keystone/AP UNTV

Responding to President Trump’s statement, the UN representative for China Zhang Jun said China “resolutely rejects” the “baseless accusations”.

Introducing President Xi Jinping’s pre-recorded address, Zhang Jun said: “At this moment, the world needs more solidarity and cooperation, but not confrontation. We need to increase mutual confidence and trust, but not the spreading of [a] political virus.”

“These accusations are totally baseless. No matter what others say, China firmly supports multilateralism, support the United Nations to play its central role in international affairs.”

Speaking in his address, Xi said that attempts to politicise or stigmatise the coronavirus pandemic must be rejected.

“We should follow the guidance of science, give full play to the leading role of the World Health Organisation and launch a joint international response to beat this pandemic,” he said.

In stark contrast to Trump’s “America first” approach, Xi stressed his country’s commitment to multilateralism and international cooperation:

“It is natural for countries to have differences, what’s important is to address them through dialogue and consultation. Countries may engage in competition but such competition must be positive and healthy in nature. When in competition, countries should not breach the moral standard and should comply with international norms." - President Xi Jinping

Among other commitments to multilateralism came economic pledges, with Xi announcing that China will commit an additional $50m to the UN Covid-19 humanitarian response plan and extend the Peace and Development Trust Fund between the UN and China by five years past 2025.