WHO slams 'unacceptable' remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Top officials of the World Health Organization on Thursday slammed "unacceptable" comments made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who alleged that China had co-opted the WHO.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the claims made Tuesday in London by Pompeo that China had "co-opt international institutions like the World Health Organization" were untrue and a distraction to the global pandemic response.

"The comments are untrue and unacceptable and without any foundation for that matter," Tedros said at a news briefing from the United Nations agency's Gevena headquarters on Thursday. "WHO will not be distracted by these comments and we don't want the international community also to be distracted." 

Pompeo has previously accused China of working with the WHO to downplay the growing coronavirus crisis. On Tuesday, he said the entire world "needs to work together to ensure that every country, including China, behaves in the international system in ways that are appropriate, consistent with the international order."

Standing beside his U.K. counterpart Dominic Raab, Pompeo continued: "You can't go make claims for maritime regions that you have no lawful claim to. You can't threaten countries and bully them in the Himalayas. You can't engage in cover-ups and co-opt international institutions like the World Health Organization," he added.

It's not the first time Pompeo said China has "co-opted" the WHO.

"When you have an incident in your country that could potentially lead to a pandemic, you have an obligation to report that and to allow others to come in and help you be transparent about it. The Chinese Communist Party chose differently. They co-opted the World Health Organization to achieve that cover-up," Pompeo said during a virtual event with The Hill on July 15."

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