President Trump on May 18 threatened to permanently freeze funding to the World Health Organization if they did not “commit to major substantive improvements.” (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP/Reuters)
By Teo Armus May 19, 2020 at 8:46 a.m. EDT
Trump threatened Monday to permanently halt U.S. funding to the World Health Organization and “reconsider” the country’s membership in the United Nations body if it does not “commit to major substantive improvements” within the next 30 days.
In a letter to the WHO posted in a late-night tweet, Trump said the global health agency floundered in its early responses to the coronavirus outbreak. In particular, he continued to attack the organization and its director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, accusing them of being too soft on China, where the virus is believed to have originated.
Trump temporarily suspended U.S. payments in April for 60 days, an unpopular move that critics said was aimed at distracting from his own administration’s response to the pandemic. His ultimatum Monday, which came as WHO member countries conferred about the pandemic, may provoke more backlash at the international level.
The president did not specify what changes were needed for him to restore U.S. donations, the WHO’s largest single source of funding. But he said discussions between the United States and the agency’s leaders were already underway.
“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.
WHO was “considering the contents of the letter,” it said in a statement.
Although Trump at first praised China’s efforts to combat the outbreak earlier this year, he has since shifted to slamming the WHO for allegedly promoting misinformation from Beijing. His letter reiterated many of his accusations.
“The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,” Trump wrote.