President Trump threatened Monday to permanently withhold U.S. funding for the World Health Organization and “reconsider” U.S. membership in the United Nations body charged with monitoring global health and highlighting pandemics such as the novel coronavirus.
In a late-night tweet, Trump blamed the health agency for fumbling early responses to the outbreak and being too deferential to China, where the virus emerged and began spreading last year. Trump said he would make his temporary suspension of U.S. aid permanent if the WHO does not “commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days.”
Trump did not specify the changes he wants, but in a letter to WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Trump said discussions between the United States and the WHO are underway.
Still, he said he could not wait for the outcome to formally cite “repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic,” which he said had been “extremely costly for the world.”
“The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,” Trump wrote.
His letter, a copy of which he released on Twitter, does not change anything right away. In April, Trump had placed a 60-day freeze on the approximately $400 million annual U.S. funding for the health body as part of a larger administration effort to highlight what Trump calls the failings of China, while shifting blame from his own early handling of the crisis.
Earlier Monday, Trump had said an announcement on the WHO was coming soon, and he suggested he might slash U.S. funding to around $40 million, or about commensurate with the Chinese contribution.
Trump said he chose not to address the WHO’s annual meeting on Monday, held virtually this year, although Chinese President Xi Jinping had done so.