U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hinted that the United States could create its own alternative to the World Health Organization in a Thursday interview with Laura Ingraham of FOX News.
The Trump administration has cut all U.S. funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) amid accusations that the international medical body helped cover for China’s mishandling of the novel coronavirus. Pompeo suggested that the United States would demand drastic changes before restoring its relationship with the organization—if at all.
“I think we’ve got to take a real hard look at the WHO and what we do coming out of this,” he said. “We need a fix. We need a structural fix for the WHO.”
Ingraham asked Pompeo whether it was possible that the United States could call for WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s resignation.
“No, I think that’s right, Laura,” he responded. “Even more than that, it may be the case that the United States can never return to underwriting—having U.S. taxpayer dollars go to the WHO. We may need to have even bolder change than that.”
“Yeah, make our own organization,” Ingraham responded, before changing the topic to the controversy around the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
U.S. officials have anonymously alleged that the novel coronavirus, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, first infected members of the public in a laboratory accident at the virology center.
Pompeo did not endorse the theory, but said that China has not been transparent enough about the origins of the virus.
“We still don’t have the transparency and openness we need in China, and it is the World Health Organization’s responsibility to achieve that transparency,” he told Ingraham. “You recounted what happened in January and the delayed announcement about the pandemic, and the fact that China had asked them not to announce, and the World Health Organization didn’t do that.”
The Trump administration and its supporters are not alone in expressing concern about Chinese influence at the World Health Organization.
Bernie Sanders campaign co-chair Rep. Ro Khanna (D–Calif.) has called for using U.S. funding for the WHO as leverage to demand transparency and counter Chinese influence.
China’s rivals in its near abroad have also clashed with the WHO over allegations of Chinese influence.
Japanese deputy prime minister Taro Aso has referred to the body as the “Chinese Health Organization.” Taiwan, an autonomous island that China considers a renegade Chinese province, claims that the WHO ignored its early warnings because the public health body refuses to recognize the Taiwanese government.
Even the Iranian government, a close ally of Beijing, has expressed serious doubts about the officially-reported coronavirus statistics in China.
“What’s been great is to see other countries around the world to begin to recognize the WHO’s failures as well,” Pompeo told Ingraham.
Matthew Petti is a national security reporter at the National Interest. Follow him on Twitter: @matthew_petti.