China asks US to pay UN debts in full

In a move construed as a continuation of their diplomatic spat over several issues, China has asked the US to “fulfill its financial obligations” and clear its debts to the UN, amounting to over USD2 billion, but the Trump administration promptly dismissed the call, saying Beijing is “eager to distract attention from its cover-up and mismanagement of the COVID crisis”.

Although China’s May 15 statement urges all the UN member states to clear their dues, it stressed that the US remained the largest debtor. “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; and the United States is the largest debtor, owing 1.165 billion and 1.332 billion US dollars respectively,” the Chinese statement said, citing a report from the UN Secretary-General’s office.

The US contributes 22 percent of the UN’s overall annual budget; around $3 billion for its running costs, and around $6 billion, or 25 percent, of the body’s peacekeeping operations.However, the United States’ official commitment to the UN peacekeeping budget is 27.89 percent of the total, but in 2017, the Trump administration reduced that to 25 percent after a Congress decision, which led to an annual shortfall of $200 million to the global organization.

Dismissing China’s call for clearing the UN debt, the US mission to the UN said that 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 total peacekeeping arrears amount to $888 million due to the payment at the rate of 25 percent since 2017.

The UN depends on the financial contributions of its member countries for its peacekeeping operations around the world. It pays reimbursements to countries that contribute troops. 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 May 14, around 50 of the 193 member states, including China, paid their contributions in full. China is the second-largest contributor, but far behind the US, contributing 12 percent of the UN’s running costs and around 15 percent of the peacekeeping budget.

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