China ‘unleashed this plague’: Trump
US President Donald Trump has lashed China in a blistering UN address, claiming the nation covered up crucial COVID-19 details and must be held accountable.
Mr Trump's rant was recorded at the White House and delivered to the United Nations General Assembly remotely due to social distancing requirements as a result of the pandemic.
His stunning attack comes as America's coronavirus continues to worsen.
The US coronavirus death toll has now passed 200,000 - the highest in the world - and it also leads the planet when it comes to the number of COVID-19 infections.
Meanwhile, the nation is just weeks away from its November 3 election, with Mr Trump facing a neck-and-neck battle against Democratic White House hopeful Joe Biden.
"We must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world, China," Mr Trump said in his speech.
"The Chinese government, and the World Health Organisation - which is virtually controlled by China - falsely declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.
"Later, they falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease … The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions."
Mr Trump also took the chance to criticise the UN, urging it to focus on "the real problems of the world" including "terrorism, the oppression of women, forced labour, drug trafficking, human and sex trafficking, religious persecution, and the ethnic cleansing of religious minorities".
But Mr Trump also delivered a message of hope, vowing to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.
"We will defeat the virus, and we will end the pandemic," he said.
The relationship between the US and China has deteriorated to new lows in recent months, and President Xi Jinping appeared to take a subtle swing at Mr Trump during his own address.
"Facing the virus, we should enhance solidarity and get through this together," he said.
"We should follow the guidance of science, give full play to the leading role of the World Health Organisation and launch a joint international response to beat this pandemic.
"Any attempt of politicising the issue, or stigmatisation, must be rejected."
The message of solidarity was reinforced by China's UN ambassador Zhang Jun, who said Beijing had "no intention to fight either a cold war or a hot one with any country".
"The world is at a crossroads. At this moment, the world needs more solidarity and co-operation, but not confrontation," he said.
But he fired back more strongly during a later press conference, insisting it was the US who should be held accountable.
"They (the US) are saying that they will count to hold China accountable. If we do have to hold anyone accountable, it should be the United States held accountable for losing so many lives and with their irresponsible behaviours," he said.
He insisted claims China covered up coronavirus information at the beginning of the pandemic were "lies".
The war of words comes as the global coronavirus situation continues to worsen.
Infections are spreading across Europe, with the UK announcing a host of coronavirus restrictions expected to last for six months in a government backflip to fight a second wave of the virus, with total virus cases doubling every seven to 20 days.
Israel has also entered a second lockdown, and cases are soaring in nations including Spain, India and Brazil.
Originally published as China 'unleashed this plague': Trump