US, China tensions flare over COVID-19
United Nations – Tensions between the United States and China came to the fore of the annual UN General Assembly in New York, with US President Donald Trump blaming China for the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
He called for China to be held “accountable” for the pandemic.
In his speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country had “no intention to enter a Cold War with any country”.
Ties between the two world powers are strained on a number of fronts.
This year’s summit at New York is largely being held virtually, with world leaders providing pre-recorded speeches.
The new format meant some of the geopolitical theatre normally on offer at the key UN meeting was absent. Each country was represented by a single delegate and there was little opportunity for one nation to rebut another.
But as often is the case for speeches to the assembly, Trump used his address to tout his achievements and tear into a rival.
China ‘infected the world’ – Trump
“We must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague on to the world – China,” he said.
“In the earliest days of the virus China locked down travel domestically, while allowing flights to leave China and infect the world. China condemned my travel ban on their country, even as they cancelled domestic flights and locked citizens in their homes,” he added.
Trump, whose own record on coronavirus is under close scrutiny as the US heads towards elections, has frequently accused Beijing of covering up the virus, saying they could have stopped the disease spreading. China has called the attacks an unfounded distraction.
The US death toll for coronavirus, at more than 200 000, is the highest in the world and President Trump has often downplayed the disease.
Tensions are high between the US and China on a number of other issues, including trade, technology, Hong Kong and China’s treatment of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province. (BBC)