Mr Pompeo said that “when push came to shove, you’ve got dead Britons because of the deal that was made”. He did not provide any further evidence but insisted his remarks were based “on a firm intelligence foundation”.
The World Health Organisation has “strongly” rejected allegations made by Mike Pompeo that the agency is in the pocket of the Chinese and its mishandling of the pandemic has contributed to the deaths of British people.
In a private London meeting held with MPs and peers on Tuesday, the US secretary of state also claimed that the head of the organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, struck a deal with China that helped secure his election in 2017.
He added that the WHO was a “political” rather than “science-based organisation”.
Reacting to the remarks, a spokesperson for the WHO said: “WHO is not aware of any such statement but we strongly reject any ad hominem attacks and unfounded allegations.
“WHO urges countries to remain focused on tackling the pandemic that is causing tragic loss of life and suffering.”
The BBC reports that Mr Pompeo’s comments have been met with shock and anger in Geneva, home to the WHO headquarters, with officials reluctant to respond in detail for fear of amplifying the allegations.
Mr Pompeo’s remarks follow the recent decision made by Donald Trump to sever all US relations with the WHO, despite a lack of support for the move among the international community.
The president has repeatedly attacked the organisation throughout the pandemic, accusing it of bowing to Chinese pressure and failing to take proper action in dealing with Covid-19.
Dr David Nabarro, the UK candidate who ran against Dr Tedros for the role of WHO director-general in 2017, said it was imperative that all countries worked together in tackling the deadly virus, which has killed more than 600,000 people worldwide.
While defending Dr Tedros, he told The Daily Telegraph: “I’ve been working with him on this since Jan 31, because it’s so serious. And in all the time that I’ve worked with him since then I’ve seen him being fair-minded and responsive to all nations, and concentrating on what matters the most, which is getting on top of this pandemic.
“I just don’t recognise the kind of remarks made by the US Secretary of State.”
Mr Pompeo’s attack came as Dominic Raab, the UK’s foreign secretary, denied that Britain had been “strong-armed” by the US into taking a tougher stance against China.
Mr Rabb was asked on Tuesday whether the UK’s recent decision to exclude Huawei from its 5G network had been influenced by the Trump administration.
“I don’t think there is any question of strong-arming – Mike [Pompeo] and I always have constructive discussions and actually a vast majority of the times our views overlap and we work together very well,” he said.
Mr Pompeo has called on countries, including the UK, to form a coalition to put pressure on China to change its political course.
“We think that the entire world needs to work together to ensure that every country – including China – behaves in the international system in ways that are appropriate and consistent with the international order,” the secretary of state said.
He also welcomed the UK’s responses to China over Huawei and the introduction of a controversial national security law in Hong Kong.
The US official, who held talks with Boris Johnson and Mr Raab on Tuesday, said he had seen “Hong Kong’s freedoms crushed” and “watched the Chinese Communist Party bully its neighbours”.
“I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the British government for its principled response to these challenges,” he added.