Trump says U.S. will be ‘terminating’ relationship with WHO

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday that the United States would be “terminating” its relationship with the World Health Organization over its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“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 public health needs,” Trump said. “The world needs answers from China on the virus. We must have transparency.”

Trump last month announced that the U.S. was halting funding for the WHO pending a review of its initial response to the coronavirus outbreak.

It was not clear how Trump planned to withhold the funds, much of which are directed by congressional appropriation. The president typically does not have the authority to unilaterally redirect congressional funding.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Trump’s initial threats to cut WHO funding in April “dangerous” and “illegal.”

Trump has repeatedly slammed the WHO for its response to the coronavirus and has accused the WHO of being “China-centric.”

“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 Friday.

The annual U.S. contribution to the WHO last year was roughly 15 percent of the agency’s budget.

Trump on Friday also criticized Chinese officials who he said “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.”

The WHO has no authority to force foreign governments to divulge medical information or open doors to its hospitals and labs.

China has denied that it concealed details about the outbreak. The WHO has strongly defended its response, saying it took urgent action at the first signs of the epidemic in Wuhan.

Trump also criticized China’s recently announced national security law, which endangers Hong Kong’s special status. Trump said he would begin eliminating policy exemptions that have previously applied to Hong Kong.

“Today will affect the full range of agreements we have with Hong Kong, from our extradition treaty to our export our export controls on dual-use technologies and more, with few exceptions. We will be revising the State Department’s travel advisory for Hong Kong to reflect the increased danger of surveillance and punishment by the Chinese state security apparatus,” Trump said.

During the news conference, Trump did not mention George Floyd, the black man who died in an encounter with Minneapolis police officers on Monday, or the unrest that followed in the city this week. One of the officers, Derek Chauvin, was taken into custody and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter shortly before Trump spoke at the White House on Friday afternoon.

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