• U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world cannot afford a U.S.-China cold war
  • Trump demands China be held accountable for the coronavirus pandemic
  • Xi said the pandemic should remind nations of the need to work together

Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned of a “clash of civilizations” while U.S. President Trump said China must be held “accountable” for the spread of coronavirus in dueling speeches Tuesday before an almost entirely virtual 75th U.N. General Assembly meeting.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed alarm over the U.S.-China rift, saying the world is “moving in a very dangerous direction.”

“Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a Great Fracture -- each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities," Guterres said in a rare in-person address.

Trump delivered a combative address where he said the U.S. will not be force to do anything against its own interests and demanded the world body take action against Beijing for its mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak early on.

“The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions,” Trump said after listing China’s missteps.

The demand came as the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 passed the 200,000 mark – more deaths than any other country and accounting for more than 20% of deaths from the virus worldwide. Critics have said Trump is just trying to shift blame for his administration’s handling of the pandemic.

Trump, who earlier this year said he would pull the U.S. out of the U.N. World Health Organization because of Chinese influence on the agency, said the U.N. needs to focus on the world’s real problems, which he listed as: “terrorism, the oppression of women, forced labor, drug trafficking, human and sex trafficking, religious persecution and the ethnic cleansing of religious minorities.”

Xi said rather than trying to assign blame, the world’s nations should work together to fight coronavirus.

"COVID-19 reminds us that we are living in an interconnected global village with a common stake," Xi said.

"This is why we should embrace the vision of a community with a shared future in which everyone is bound together," Xi said. He warned that unless nations see each other as one big family, a "clash of civilizations" could make progress impossible.

"We have no intention to fight either a cold war or a hot war with any country," Xi said.

Xi called for a green revolution to spearhead a post-COVID world economic recovery.

Trump, who pulled the U.S. out of the Paris environmental accords, scoffed at the suggestion.

“Every year, China dumps millions and millions of tons of plastic and trash into the oceans, overfishes other countries’ waters, destroys vast swaths of coral reef and emits more toxic mercury into the atmosphere than any country anywhere in the world. China’s carbon emissions are nearly twice what the U.S. has, and it’s rising fast,” Trump said.

Trump has been ratcheting up the rhetoric against China for months and has threatened to sever ties, urging companies to move their supply chains out of the Asian nation and bring manufacturing back to the United States.

Zhang Jun, China's ambassador to the U.N., said Trump’s combative tone was “incompatible with the general atmosphere.”

"When the international community is really fighting hard against the Covid-19, the United States is spreading a political virus here in the General Assembly," he said.

"If we do have to hold anyone accountable, it should be the United States held accountable for losing so many lives with their irresponsible behavior."