The Trump administration has accused the World Health Organisation of allowing the Covid-19 pandemic to spin out of control at the cost of many lives.

"We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control," US Health Secretary Alex Azar said overnight, during an address to the UN's World Health Assembly.

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"There was a failure by this organisation to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives.


"We saw that WHO failed at its core mission of information sharing and transparency when member states do not act in good faith.

"This cannot ever happen again."

The accusation came after Chinese President Xi Jinping defended his country's record on handling coronavirus, backed a WHO-led investigation into the pandemic and pledged US$2 billion in aid to help tackle the disease in a speech at the World Health Assembly.

US President Donald Trump has backed Australian-led calls for a probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic after the summit.

He shared a tweet from SBS News that said the European Union, India, Japan, Britain, Canada, Russia and New Zealand, among others, would back calls for an inquiry into the pandemic.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched a separate attack on China, accusing the country of "weakness" and saying the Chinese Communist Party is a threat to the world. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

"I think the American people, and I hope people all across the world, understand the risk to the globe — to freedom-loving countries and democracies around the world—that is presented by the actions of the Chinese Communist Party," he said in an interview with Breitbart News.


Pompeo said verbal attacks by Beijing-controlled media "demonstrate weakness, not resolve, by the Chinese Communist Party".

"I think this shows that the Chinese Communist Party understands the risk that they've put on top of their own nation," he said. "[It's] how Communist regimes, how autocracies behave.

"Once they know they have done things that are wrong, they strike out. They try to blame others. I think that's what you're seeing. They also try to manoeuvre around the world through disinformation. We have been clear—President Trump, myself, the State Department—have been clear about making sure that everyone understands the facts surrounding the Chinese Communist Party."

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, hit back calling Pompeo a "lying blabbermouth".

"This US politician has been a lying blabbermouth," he said, according to Fox News correspondent Edward Lawrence. "It's a waste of time to comment on his fabrications."

Whether Xi's speech will help stem the growing tide of animosity between Trump, leaders from Australia and the European Union remains to be seen.


During the speech, China's leader defended his country's record on the virus – which is believed to have originated in a Wuhan wet market – saying "we have acted with openness, transparency and responsibility" amid calls for an investigation into the source of Covid-19.

"We have provided information to WHO and relevant countries in a most timely fashion. We have released the genome sequence at the earliest possible time," he said.

"We have shared control and treatment experience with the world without reservation. We have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need."

He pledged to "continue supporting global research by scientists on the source and transmission routes of the virus" and said China would back a WHO-led review when the pandemic was "under control".

The comments came after more than 120 countries backed an Australian-led push for an independent review into the origins of the disease that has infected nearly five million people and led to 315,000 deaths globally.

Australian immunologist Professor Peter Doherty said the speech was "excellent news and should take the heat out of this for Australia as we are also, as I understand it, signed on to that process".


The BBC's China correspondent Stephen McDonell said the focus on multilateralism and helping developing countries helped to position Xi as a world leader.

The Australian noted "Xi Jinping backs down on virus inquiry" and said: "The virus commitment — and China's repositioning on the ­inquiry — came after more than 120 countries agreed to support an independent inquiry, the promotion of which by the Australian Government has been sharply ­opposed by Beijing."

The global response to the virus crisis has been fragmented and controversial, with Trump withdrawing funding from the WHO over a perceived lack of efficacy in the organisation.

China has moved to fill that void by praising the group – but its diplomatic words came with a sting in the tail for Australia as the country slapped 80 per cent tariffs on barley exports, one week after blocking some beef imports in retaliation for the inquiry push.

Australia hasn't ruled out taking China to the World Trade Organisation over the barley move, which comes into effect today.

Opposition frontbencher Chris Bowen said the impasse was deeply concerning for Australian farmers.


"It's best not to politicise the relationship with China if at all possible," he said.