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Trump says world leaders must hold China accountable for coronavirus

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

US President Donald Trump has urged world leaders to hold China accountable for the spread of the coronavirus.

US President Donald Trump urged world leaders to hold China accountable for the spread of the coronavirus, in a video address to a scaled-down UN General Assembly.

The death toll from coronavirus in the US has topped 200,000 and beyond criticising China, Mr Trump took aim at the very foundation of the United Nations by urging other leaders to put their own countries first, a message that echoed his "America First" campaign mantra.

"Only when you take care of your own citizens, will you find a true basis for cooperation," Mr Trump said.

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Dayton International Airport, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, at Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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"As president, I have rejected the failed approaches of the past — and I am proudly putting America first, just as you should be putting your countries first. That's Okay. That's what you should be doing."

But it was the coronavirus that was both the core and the backdrop of Trump's address. Speeches by US presidents are normally a highlight of the annual General Assembly, a premier event on the global diplomatic calendar.

But this year's gathering is being held remotely because of the pandemic. Mr Trump, denied an auditorium packed with global leaders, gave a speech lasting just under eight minutes, the shortest General Assembly speech by a US president in more than two decades.

Under fire for his own handling of the coronavirus, Mr Trump cast blame on China, noting the virus began there and accusing the Chinese government of acting irresponsibly in failing to contain it.

"The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions," Mr Trump said, without elaborating on what punishment he thought was warranted.

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United Nations logo on gate (Getty)

READ MORE: US death toll from coronavirus tops 200,000

Mr Trump's handling of the virus is a top issue in the presidential campaign. His Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, says Mr Trump bungled the response to COVID-19 and is responsible for the US having more deaths than any other nation.

Mr Trump minimised the danger of virus, encouraged the reopening of US society even as the virus was spreading rapidly and continues to hold campaign rallies where few wear face masks or practice social distancing.

Mr Trump also attacked China's environmental record, even though his administration has rolled back or eliminated scores of existing or pending public health and environmental protections.

China's UN ambassador rejected criticism of China on its handling of COVID-19 as "totally baseless."

"At this moment, the world needs more solidarity and cooperation, and not a confrontation," Ambassador Zhang Jun said before introducing President Xi Jinping's prerecorded speech.

READ MORE: Trump contradicts top health official on COVID-19 vaccine

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the world faces the risk of a new Cold War between the US and China.

"Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a Great Fracture — each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities," Mr Guterres said.

"A technological and economic divide risks inevitably turning into a geo-strategic and military divide. We must avoid this at all costs."

Source: 9News

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