WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States is seeking to "fundamentally change" the World Health Organisation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday (April 14) after Washington threatened to withhold contributions during the coronavirus pandemic.
President Donald Trump has promised an announcement this week on US funding to the UN body at the forefront of the crisis. The United States is the top donor to the WHO, providing US$400 million (S$560 million) last year.
"The World Health Organisation in its history has done some good work. Unfortunately here, it didn't hit the top of its game," Pompeo told Florida radio programme 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 own 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.
He went on the offensive against the WHO after agreeing to scale back tensions with China, a key source of medical supplies, following his earlier pointed accusations that Beijing bore responsibility for the spread of the "Chinese virus."
But Pompeo indicated that the United States still was looking to take action.
Asked in a separate interview about a proposal in Congress to let US coronavirus victims sue China, Pompeo said that all nations' records will eventually be scrutinised.
"Those who were responsible for both the loss of lives, the tragedy that's taken place here in the United States and the economic damage that has been done all around the world, I'm very confident that this administration will lead the way in holding both those countries and the individuals responsible for it accountable," Pompeo told Houston radio station KSEV.
Defenders of the WHO 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.