WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is pushing the United Nations Security Council to draw attention to the Chinese origins of the coronavirus, four diplomats posted to the United Nations told NBC News, stopping a dead end as the global body seeks to whip a response to the pandemic.
Discussions among nations of the United Nations Security Council on a joint declaration or resolution on the coronavirus have blocked the insistence of the United States to explicitly declare that the virus originated in Wuhan, China, as well as the exact date to which it started. Chinese diplomats are enraged by diplomats, even as they seek to put their own language in the statement praising China’s efforts to contain the virus.
The dispute at the United Nations comes as Washington and Beijing increasingly point the finger at the coronavirus.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly blamed China for its spread, accusing Beijing of concealing early knowledge of the virus. But after reports of increased racism and attacks on Asian Americans emerged, Trump tweeted this week that it was “NOT their fault” and said he did not would more call it the “Chinese virus”.
“Everyone knows he came out of China,” said Trump on Tuesday. “But I decided that we shouldn’t be paying much attention to it anymore. “
However, his administration continued to work to qualify it as a crisis created by China, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo again referring on Wednesday to the “Wuhan virus” and to “this crisis which started in Wuhan, China” . He also did not dispute a German report that he urged G-7 leaders to include language on the “Wuhan virus” in a joint statement.
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The administration’s efforts at the Security Council to name China as the source of the virus began in recent weeks when Estonia, a rotating member of the council, began to draft a statement for publication.
Although the United Nations has a separate public health agency – the World Health Organization – the Security Council has sought to warn how ongoing global conflicts could exacerbate the crisis and undermine the response.
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France, a permanent member of the council, proposed a version demanding a “general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all countries”, including a 30-day humanitarian pause in conflicts, to allow supplies related to coronaviruses to circulate, according to a text reviewed by NBC News.
But the United States, in various drafts and reviews circulated between countries, has sought to insert references to “the epidemic of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province in the People’s Republic of China (RPC) in November 2019 ”. The PRC is the official name of China.
Another US project encouraged the UN to build on lessons learned from the past, “particularly the epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) that originated in Guangdong province in the PRC in 2011.”
The demands hit a wall with China, a veto member of the Security Council, whose diplomats accused the United States of “irresponsible practices” in a blistered email to diplomats from other nations this week obtained by NBC News.
“We are amazed at the US’s choice to use this opportunity to politicize the blossoming and blame China, which we firmly oppose,” China’s mission to the UN wrote. “The baseless accusations and the malicious fabrication of the United States are aimed at evading its own responsibilities, which has seriously poisoned the atmosphere of global cooperation to contain the epidemic. “
An American diplomat familiar with the discussion said that the National Security Council had led the American mission to the United Nations to defend the language, with the support of Pompeo.
The American mission did not respond to a request for comment. But a senior Trump administration official said that a key part of Trump’s efforts to fight the coronavirus was to bring together global experts “to better understand the coronavirus.”
“Our goal is to collect the data, information and samples necessary to understand the evolutionary origins of the virus so that we can effectively fight the pandemic and prepare for future epidemics,” said the official.
Russian diplomats have insisted that ambassadors come in person to the Security Council to vote, which contradicts public health directives urging people to stay at home and not to congregate, diplomats said. Security Council country.
For more than a week, when other council members ordered almost all of their staff to work from home, Russian diplomats were still showing up for their mission in New York, the diplomats said. In the meantime, they argued that the virtual meetings were untenable, citing technical problems with the video conferencing equipment.
The Russian mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment. But on Tuesday, the Russians dropped their insistence on face-to-face meetings, several diplomats said. The change came on the same day that Russian President Vladimir Putin, wearing a full protective suit and a respirator during his visit to the hospital, was informed by the mayor of Moscow that Russia counted much more. of coronavirus patients as shown by its official report.
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The Trump administration in Washington has bristled with an unsubstantiated suggestion from the Chinese Foreign Ministry that it may have been the US military that brought the coronavirus to Wuhan.
” Do you see it. You see it on social media, “said Pompeo on Wednesday, accusing Beijing of an” intentional misinformation campaign “even as he insisted it was not the time to point the finger. “You see it in remarks by senior Chinese Communist Party officials who talked about whether this was a – from the United States brought to China. It’s a crazy speech. “
In discussions on a Security Council statement or resolution, Chinese diplomats have had their own wish lists, said two diplomats familiar with the talks: references to the success of China’s massive efforts to control the crisis once the virus identified. After imposing a strict foreclosure in Hubei Province, the center of the crisis in China, authorities began to ease restrictions as the number of new cases fell to almost zero.
A diplomat involved in the Security Council talks said that other countries were encouraging a compromise in which China and the United States would abandon their insistence on language that would inevitably be problematic for the other.
China’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment.