“The pandemic is a clear test of international cooperation – a test that we have essentially failed,” he told the 15-member body. If the climate crisis were approached in the same way, he said: “I fear the worst.
US President Donald Trump, who faces a re-election battle made more difficult by the spread of the disease across the country, on Tuesday called for action against China for spreading the “scourge” of COVID-19 around the world .
The United States has reported more than 200,000 deaths, the highest in the world, and accuses Beijing of a lack of transparency which it says has exacerbated the epidemic. China denies the claims.
‘Enough is enough’
US Ambassador Kelly Craft reiterated the accusations at the virtual council meeting, prompting an angry reaction from her Chinese counterpart Zhang Jun.
“Enough is enough,” he said. “You have already created enough problems for the world. … The United States must understand that blaming others will not solve its own problems. ”
Speaking in English and noting the deaths and cases in the United States, Zhang continued, “With the most advanced technology and medical system in the world, why has the United States been found to have the cases and most confirmed deaths?
“If anyone is to be held responsible, it should be a few American politicians themselves.”
The United States “is completely isolated,” he added in remarks enthusiastically supported by his Russian counterpart.
Persistent tensions between the United States and China have reached the boiling point of the pandemic, highlighting Beijing’s attempt for greater multilateral influence in a challenge to traditional Washington rulers.
Craft’s attack caught many diplomats off guard.
“Shame on each of you,” she said.
“I am amazed and disgusted with the content of today’s discussion… I am actually really ashamed of this advice – of the council members who took this opportunity to focus on political grudges rather than crucial question under consideration. My God. ”
Diplomats said they were puzzled at the tone taken by Craft, who had left when the Chinese ambassador spoke.
Craft was “very aggressive” after a session that had been “more or less full of consensus,” a diplomat told AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.
Nancy Soderberg, a former US ambassador to the UN, told Al Jazeera that the organization was “a microcosm of the state of the world” and that the nervous atmosphere of the event underscored how the global response to the pandemic had become “shattered”.
“He hasn’t reached the point of no return,” she said. “It is in the interest of each country to work together and take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of their people.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – without naming any names – noted that the pandemic had worsened the differences between states.
“We are seeing attempts by individual countries to use the current situation to advance their narrow interests of the moment, to settle scores with an unwanted government or geopolitical competitors,” he said.
Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi, meanwhile, called for better coordination and cooperation.
“Great countries have an even greater duty to put the future of humanity first, to rid themselves of the Cold War mentality and ideological prejudices, and to come together in a spirit of partnership to overcome the difficulties, ”he said.
The United States is withdrawing from the Geneva-based World Health Organization after Trump accused it of becoming a puppet for China during the coronavirus pandemic. The WHO has rejected Trump’s claim.
“Sometimes geopolitics has tampered with cooperation and hampered our agility. The pandemic has tested the international system like never before, ”said UK Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth of Nations Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon. “But now is not the time to reject international institutions.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also appeared to attack the United States when he said the pandemic should not be used to undermine “all the work that has been done in recent decades by feminist movements for gender equality ”.
“We have to be on our guard, we have to be vigilant, especially when it comes to protecting sexual and reproductive rights,” he told the Security Council.
The Trump administration has led a campaign at the UN against the promotion of sexual and reproductive health rights and services for women because it views this as a code for abortion. Earlier this month, the United States voted against a United Nations General Assembly resolution on the coronavirus pandemic in part because it included such language.
World leaders were urged to send speeches ahead of the virtual General Assembly so that Chinese President Xi Jinping was unable to respond to Trump’s video accusations when he delivered his speech.
General Assembly spokesman Brenden Varma said China had asked to speak next Tuesday, the scheduled day for any nation to respond to the statements.