China's UN Mission acting deputy envoy Yao Shaojun has berated the US for being the organisation's "largest debtor", and claimed that Washington owes about $1.16 billion and $1.3 billion to the UN's regular and peacekeeping operations budgets, respectively.
Yao referred to the US arrears as he spoke earlier this week at a UN General Assembly budget committee meeting, where he specifically stressed the importance of all UN member states implementing their financial obligations.
"Facing tremendous economic and fiscal pressure from the COVID-19 outbreak, China, the second largest contributor to the UN regular budget and peacekeeping budget, has managed to pay all assessed contributions in full. It shows China's concrete support to the cause of the UN and the work of the secretary-general", the envoy underscored.
The AP news agency cited an unnamed US Mission spokesperson as saying in response that Beijing is "eager to distract attention from its cover-up and mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis, and this [Yao's statement on Washington's arrears] is yet another example".
The spokesperson added that the US had recently paid $726 million toward its peacekeeping assessment "and per practice will pay the bulk of its assessment at the end of the calendar year". The US fiscal year runs from October to September, rather from January to December, which is why the country typically makes UN payments late in the year.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, for his part, singled out the $1.62 billion still unpaid for the UN's 2020 regular budget and $2.12 billion more - for the peacekeeping budget. He declined to clarify on the alleged US arrears.
The remarks followed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noting in a letter to the UN's 193 members in late April that "unpredictable cash inflows, exacerbated by the global crisis posed by the coronavirus pandemic, seriously threaten" the UN's ability to do its work. He called on all member states to pay all of their dues and announced a temporary hiring freeze.
US-China Tensions on Rise
The developments come amid growing tensions between Beijing and Washington as US officials threaten to sanction, sue, or impose tariffs on China over its alleged mishandling of the coronavirus crisis.
President Donald Trump has, in turn, repeatedly accused China of resorting to cover-ups related to the COVID-19 pandemic since the first cases were initially reported in December. He did not even exclude that the US could cut off diplomatic relations with China entirely over the COVID-19 crisis, and save half a trillion dollars by doing so.
Beijing denies Washington's accusations that COVID-19 came from a Wuhan biolab, urging the US to "handle its domestic affairs properly first" and pointing out that the "enemy is the virus, not China".