President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the US was cutting ties with the World Health Organization which he says, did not respond adequately to combat the initial spread of COVID-19.
Stating that the funding of the WHO would now be diverted to other global public health organisations, Trump announced a series of decisions against China including issuing a proclamation to deny entry to certain Chinese nationals and tightening of regulations against Chinese investments in America.
Trump also announced that the US will end the special treatment of Hong Kong in response to the Chinese imposition of new controls.
He said that the US will revise its travel advisory to warn of surveillance in Hong Kong.
"The world needs answers from China," Trump said in his aggressive speech on a bright sunny day from the Rose Garden of the White House.
The president, however, did not take any questions.
For decades it has ripped off the US as no one has ever done before, he said, reiterating his charges against China.
China not only stole intellectual property, took away billions of dollars from the US and offshored the jobs but also violated its commitment under the World Trade Organization, he said, adding that it was able to get away with the theft, like no one before because of past politicians and past presidents.
On May 19, Trump had threatened to "permanently" halt funding for the WHO "if it did not commit to improvements within 30 days, and to reconsider the membership of the United States in the global health body."
This is the letter sent to Dr. Tedros of the World Health Organization. It is self-explanatory! pic.twitter.com/pF2kzPUpDv— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic erupted, Trump accused the UN agency of being a "puppet" of China and had already suspended funding in mid-April, AFP reported.
"Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization," Trump told reporters about the recent decision in Washington.
He reasoned that "China has total control over WHO despite only paying USD 40 million a year compared to what US has been paying which is approximately USD 450 million a year."
Meanwhile, Trump said they would be "redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs."
China, he alleged, has unlawfully claimed territories in the Indo-Pacific ocean, threatening freedom of navigation and international trade and broke its word to the world on ensuring the autonomy of Hong Kong.
"The United States wants an open and constructive relationship with China, but achieving this relationship requires us to vigorously defend our national interest," he said.
Trump alleged that the Chinese government has continually violated its promises to the US and many other nations.
"These plain facts cannot be overlooked or swept aside," he said.
Observing that the world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government, Trump reiterated that 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 one million lives worldwide.
"Chinese officials ignored their reporting obligations to the World Health Organization and pressured the World Health Organization to mislead the world when the virus was first discovered by Chinese authorities. Countless lives have been taken, and profound economic hardship has been inflicted all around the globe," he said.
China, he said, has total control over the WHO despite only paying USD 40 million per year compared to what the US has been paying which is approximately USD 450 million a year.
"We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engage with them directly, but they have refused to act."
"Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs," Trump said.
The world needs answers from China on the virus, he said.
"We must have transparency. Why is it that China shut off infected people from Wuhan to all other parts of China? It went nowhere else; it didn't go to Beijing, it went nowhere else, but they allowed them to freely travel throughout the world, including Europe and the United States. The death and destruction caused by this is incalculable," he said.
"We must have answers not only for us but for the rest of the world. This pandemic has underscored the crucial importance of building up America's economic independence, reshoring our critical supply chains, and protecting America's scientific and technological advances. For years, the government of China has conducted illicit espionage to steal our industrial secrets of which there are many," Trump said.
Trump said that later in the day, he will issue a proclamation to better secure America's vital university research and "to suspend the entry of certain foreign nationals from China who have been identified as potential security risks".
Asserting that he is also taking action to protect the integrity of America's financial system, Trump said he is instructing his presidential working group on financial markets to study the differing practices of Chinese companies listed on the US financial markets with a goal of protecting American investors.
"Investment firms should not be subjecting their clients to the hidden and undue risks associated with financing Chinese companies that do not play by the same rules. Americans are entitled to fairness and transparency," he said.
Referring to the unilateral Chinese action control over Hong Kong security, Trump said that this was a plain violation of Beijing's treaty obligations with the UK in the declaration of 1984 and explicit provisions of Hong Kong's basic law which has 27 years to go.
"China's latest incursion, along with other recent developments that degraded the territory's freedoms, makes clear that Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous to warrant the special treatment that we have afforded the territory since the handover," he said.
"China has replaced its promised formula of one country, two systems with one country, one system; therefore, I am directing my administration to begin the process of eliminating policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment," Trump added.
In mid-May, right after Trump's threat to WHO, the European Union backed the agency in its multilateral efforts to fight the pandemic.
European foreign affairs spokeswoman Virginie Battu-Henriksson said, "this is the time for solidarity, not the time for finger-pointing or for undermining multilateral cooperation."
(With inputs from agencies)