World

US says UN Covid-19 meeting is a stage for Chinese ‘propaganda’

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK: The US on Wednesday claimed a United Nations (UN) meeting of world leaders on the Covid-19 pandemic was being designed to allow Beijing to spread "propaganda," stoking months of bickering at the world body between the superpowers.

The two-day meeting of the UN General Assembly kicked off yesterday with some 53 heads of state, 39 heads of government and 38 ministers due to make pre-recorded video statements, including US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the special session of the 193-member General Assembly should have been held earlier, that it had been "pre-engineered to serve China's purposes" and complained that questions at panel discussions would be restricted.

China would use the setting to its advantage, the official said, adding: "I expect them to make a very, very effective propaganda play out of these two days."

A spokesman for China's mission to the UN said the US "politicisation of the issue is not in the interest of the international community".

Without naming the US, the spokesman said: "If a certain country insists, it will once again find itself isolated and end in failure. China will strengthen communication and collaboration with other member states and make positive and constructive contributions."

Trump administration officials said they expected Beijing to push a narrative at the UN this week that the virus existed abroad before it was discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan last year, a claim the WHO has called "highly speculative".

Long-simmering tensions between the US and China hit boiling point over the pandemic at the UN, spotlighting Beijing's bid for greater multilateral influence in a challenge to Washington's traditional leadership.

Mr Azar will not attack China directly in his video statement, but took aim at what he called a lack of "necessary information sharing" about the outbreak, according to a text of his prepared remarks.

"This dereliction of duty has been absolutely devastating for the entire globe," Mr Azar said.

China has denied the US assertions that a lack of transparency worsened the global outbreak. - REUTERS

WORLD