China said Wednesday it was "seriously concerned" about the U.S. decision to suspend funding for the World Health Organization, and urged Washington to fulfill its obligations during the coronavirus crisis.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused the Geneva-based body of putting political correctness above life-saving measures as he ordered the funding freeze for "mismanaging" the pandemic.
"China is seriously concerned about the US announcement to suspend funding for the World Health Organization," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing.
"The current global epidemic situation is grim. It is at a critical moment. This US decision will weaken WHO's capacities and undermine the international cooperation against the epidemic."
The U.S. and China have been sparring over the deadly virus, which was first reported in China and has killed more than 125,000 worldwide.
Trump's latest decision reflects his belief that the WHO has been biased towards China, colluding to prevent the U.S.' main economic rival from having to be open about the unfolding health crisis.
"We urge the United States to earnestly fulfill their responsibilities and obligations, and support the WHO-led international action against the epidemic," Zhao said, adding that the agency plays an "irreplaceable role" against the pandemic.
The U.S. is the biggest funder of the WHO, providing it $400 million last year.
Asked if China is prepared to contribute more to make up the shortfall, now that the US is halting funding, Zhao said Beijing has provided $20 million to the UN body.
"China has always supported the leading role played by the WHO in the international fight against the epidemic... China will look into the relevant issues depending on the needs of the situation," he said.