U.S. President Donald Trump arrives in the Rose Garden on Friday to announce the termination of the United States' relationship with the World Health Organization. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo
May 29 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Friday announced he's cutting ties with the World Health Organization during a pandemic that's killed more than 362,000 people worldwide.
"We will be terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs," he said during a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House.
Trump blamed the dissolution of the relationship on the "malfeasance" of China, which he blamed for a "coverup" of the origins of the coronavirus. Public health officials have said the novel virus originated in a market in the city of Wuhan late last year.
The United States was the largest financial contributor to WHO, which is a specialized agency of the United Nations, in 2018-19. The United States dedicated $893 million for the two-year budget cycle, about $300 million more than donated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The next largest government contributor was Britain, at $435 million.
China dedicated about $80 million in the same time period.
"China has total control over the World Health Organization despite only paying $40 million per year compared to what the United States has been paying, which is approximately $450 million a year," Trump said.
The president's announcement comes less than two weeks after he threatened to cut off funding to WHO unless it committed to "major substantive improvements" within 30 days. On April 14, he put a halt on U.S. funding to WHO, accusing the agency of "mismanaging and covering up the spread" of COVID-19.
Trump said Friday that WHO "failed to make the requested greatly needed reform."
China has balked at the United States' allegations that it covered up the origins of the virus, often pointing to praise from the WHO as proof of its openness and strong response.
In addition to his WHO announcement, Trump said he's taking steps to revoke Hong Kong's favored trade status with the United States after China approved a controversial national security law.
The legislation criminalizes acts of secession, sedition, subversion, terrorism and conspiring with foreign actors to threaten national security in Hong Kong. Critics say it will deteriorate the rights and freedoms of the semi-autonomous territory.
"My announcement today will affect the full range of agreements that we have with Hong Kong, from our extradition treaty, to our export controls and technologies," Trump said.
"We will take action to revoke Hong Kong's preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China."