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Editorial: U.S. withdrawal from WHO only hampers measures against coronavirus

  • July 10, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 1:15 p.m.
  • English Press

The novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world. At a time when the international community should come together to work on countermeasures, it is difficult to understand the taking of unilateral actions that hamper cooperation.

 

The United States has officially notified the United Nations that it will withdraw from the World Health Organization. If the United States fulfills the prerequisite conditions, the withdrawal will take effect one year after the notification. The root of this action is apparently U.S. President Donald Trump’s strong dissatisfaction with the U.N. agency, saying, “China has total control over the World Health Organization.”

 

When coronavirus infections first spread in China, the reality is that the WHO failed to deal appropriately with the issue, exposing problems in the way information is transmitted and maintaining neutrality. The WHO is requested to carry out impartial reviews and organizational reform.

 

The withdrawal of the United States from the WHO, however, will not necessarily improve the situation. Is it possible to say that it is better that the organization serving as the headquarters for coronavirus measures will be shaken and China’s influence in it will be expanded?

 

Since the WHO’s foundation in 1948 under the leadership of the United States, the agency has played a major role in fighting polio and other infectious diseases, improving public health. It stations staff in more than 150 countries and is indispensable for developing countries lacking in medical information and supplies.

 

The United States contributes to about 16% of the WHO budget. WHO activities will inevitably be dealt a blow if the WHO cannot obtain such funds from the U.S. government. There is a fear that the cooperative system between the United States and other countries to develop coronavirus vaccines and therapeutic drugs could also be adversely affected.

 

Trump has argued that being bound by international organizations and multilateral agreements “disadvantages the United States.” The U.S. government’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an international framework for measures against global warming, was also based on the same logic.

 

Global challenges, such as the spread of infectious diseases and climate change, cannot be addressed by a single country. Trump lacks that perception. If the withdrawal from the WHO makes it impossible for the United States to quickly obtain information collected by the WHO, it will harm U.S. interests.

 

The number of those infected with the virus in the United States is the highest in the world, exceeding 3 million people. It must be said that Trump is irresponsible if he is targeting the WHO to try to avoid having his administration be criticized ahead of the presidential election in November.

 

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive challenger to Trump in the presidential race, expressed his view that the United States would remain in the WHO if he is elected. The final decision on whether the United States will withdraw will depend on the outcome of the election.

 

Trump’s “America First” policy or Biden’s international cooperation policy? U.S. voters face a critical choice.

 

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on July 10, 2020.

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