China has called on the United States to pay its debts to the United Nations, stressing that Washington owes the international body more than $2 billion.
In a statement on Friday, China called on all UN member states to “actively fulfill their financial obligations to the United Nations.”
“As of May 14, the total unpaid assessments under the UN regular budget and peacekeeping budget amount to 1.63 billion and 2.14 billion US dollars respectively,” the statement said, citing a report from UN Secretary-General’s office and a meeting held on Thursday.
It added that “the United States is the largest debtor, owing 1.165 billion and 1.332 billion US dollars respectively,” including unpaid contributions that extend back several years.
The US mission to the UN later dismissed China’s call, saying Beijing is “eager to distract attention from its cover-up and mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis, and this is yet another example.”
“The United States recently made a payment of $726 million toward its peacekeeping assessment, and per practice will pay the bulk of its assessment at the end of the calendar year,” it said.
The American mission further said the total peacekeeping arrears were $888 million, adding that “roughly two-thirds of this amount is the result of payment at the rate of 25 percent from 2017 through the present.”
The United Nations has an overall annual operating budget of several billion dollars, covering everything from humanitarian work to disarmament.
The United States has traditionally been the UN’s largest donor, giving over $2 billion annually for UN peacekeeping missions and hundreds of millions more to support other programs such as the UN Children’s Fund and the World Food Program.
The payment of contributions for peacekeeping operations has a direct impact on the reimbursements the UN pays to countries that provide troops to the 15 or so missions around the world.
In a report on May 11, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that “there may be significant delays towards the middle of the year, unless the cash position across missions improves significantly.”
On Thursday, around 50 of the 193 member states, including China, paid their contributions in full, Beijing said in its statement.
China pays around 12 percent of the UN’s running costs and around 15 percent of the peacekeeping budget.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has taken a hard line on UN funding, cutting contributions and pushing for cost-saving reforms. It has reduced financial contributions to other international organizations as well.
On April 14, Trump halted funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), accusing the international body of mishandling the coronavirus pandemic.
In another virulent attack on the UN health agency, the US president claimed the WHO had failed to disclose or respond to “credible” information in December that suggested the virus could spread through human-to-human transmission.
Trump has repeatedly accused the WHO of siding with China and reliance on Chinese data, blaming it for “all sorts of false information about transmission and mortality” that was circulated amid initial reports.
The US contributed $400 million to the WHO last year, roughly 15% of its budget.
Back in April 2017, the Trump administration announced that it would withdraw funding for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which helps millions of women and girls in 155 countries around the world.
The State Department alleged that UNFPA was participating in a program by China that forces its citizens into involuntary abortions and sterilization. UNFPA slammed the allegation as an “erroneous claim.”
That was the first of the promised cuts to US contributions to the UN by the Trump administration.