May 19 (UPI) -- U.S. President Donald Trump late Monday threatened to permanently pull funding from the World Health Organization unless it commits to "major substantive improvements within the next 30 days."
The threat is an escalation to a hold Trump put on U.S. funding to the United Nations' health agency last month so as to conduct a review of the WHO's response to the coronavirus outbreak. Trump has accused it of "mismanaging and covering up" the spread of the disease.
In the letter posted to his Twitter account on Monday night, Trump said the review has confirmed his concerns over the WHO's handling of the virus and its "alarming lack of independence" from China.
"It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world," Trump wrote in the letter addressed to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China."
Trump said his administration has begun discussions with the WHO on reforms.
"We don't have time to waste," he said. "That is why it is my duty, as president of the United States, to inform you that if the World Health Organization does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider our membership in the organization."
The letter lists in chronological order several of the missteps Trump accuses the organization of having made, many of which are connected to China.
Amid the pandemic, the Trump administration has leveled criticism at the Asian nation over its lack of transparency and alleged cover-up of its initial outbreak.
China has balked at the United States' allegations, often pointing to praise from the WHO as proof of its openness and strong response to the virus.
In his letter Monday, Trump said because of the WHO's "failure" to publicly call out China's lack of transparency, more than 100 member states have backed a resolution at the ongoing World Health Assembly calling for a review of the WHO's handling of the crisis and for an independent investigation into the virus' origins.
After Trump announced the hold on funding last month, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a statement saying now is not the time to halt funding to the international organization fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump has said the United States gives between $400 million and $500 million a year to the WHO in contrast to the roughly $40 million it receives from China.
Since the virus emerged from the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, more than 4.8 million people worldwide have been infected resulting in more than 318,000 deaths, according to a live tracker of the virus by Johns Hopkins University. With 1.5 million infections and 90,000 deaths, the United States is by far the worst affected country by the coronavirus.