US seeks to 'fundamentally change' WHO, Pompeo says

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Washington (AFP)

The United States is seeking to "fundamentally change" the World Health Organization amid threats to withhold contributions in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday.

President Donald Trump has promised an announcement this week on US funding to the UN body on the forefront of the crisis. The United States is the top donor to the WHO, offering $400 million last year.

"The World Health Organization in its history has done some good work. Unfortunately here, it didn't hit the top of its game," Pompeo told Florida radio program "Good Morning Orlando."

"We need to make sure that we push through efforts to fundamentally change that or make a different decision that says we're going to do our part to make sure that these important world health obligations -- things that frankly keep Americans safe, too -- actually function," he said.

The Trump administration, a frequent critic of UN bodies, says that the WHO relied too much on Chinese official accounts after the virus officially known as SARS-CoV-2 emerged late last year in the metropolis of Wuhan.

The WHO, quoting Chinese doctors, in the initial weeks said it had no information of human-to-human transmission and praised Beijing's transparency.

Critics say that Trump is eager for a foreign scapegoat as he comes under fire for his handling of the pandemic, which he boasted in January was "totally under control" but has now killed more than 23,500 people in the United States -- more than in any other country.

Defenders of the WHO also say that the UN agency would have been shut out had it aggressively challenged China and note that it similarly has been mild in its comments regarding the US response.