US voices strong objections to Beijing over Covid-19 accusations

March 17, 2020 09:51
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is said to have conveyed to Beijing that 'this is not the time to spread disinformation and outlandish rumors' in relation to the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Reuters

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has in a phone call with a top Chinese diplomat expressed “strong objections” over what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to shift blame for the spread of the coronavirus, Reuters reports.

“Secretary Pompeo conveyed strong U.S. objections to PRC efforts to shift blame for COVID-19 to the United States,” Morgan Ortagus, a State Department spokeswoman, was quoted as saying in a a statement about Pompeo’s call with Yang Jiechi, director of the Office of Foreign Affairs of the Communist Party of China.

“The Secretary stressed that this is not the time to spread disinformation and outlandish rumors, but rather a time for all nations to come together to fight this common threat,” Ortagus said.

The United States on Friday summoned the Chinese ambassador to protest against comments by Beijing that suggested that the US military might have brought the coronavirus to Wuhan.

David Stilwell, the top US diplomat for East Asia, delivered a very “stern representation” to China’s ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported on Monday that in the phone call Yang told Pompeo that attempts to smear China’s efforts to control the coronavirus “will not succeed” and that actions that harm China’s interests would be retaliated against.

The coronavirus, which emerged in China late last year, has spread around the world. Globally over 174,100 have been infected and nearly 6,700 have died.

US death toll reached 71, with more than 4,100 people having tested positive for the disease.

Beijing was criticized for initially attempting to censor some Chinese doctors who sounded an alarm over the virus. 

Pompeo, who has sharply criticized Beijing on a number of issues from its trade practices to religious freedoms, has complained that the US response had been hindered by what he called imperfect data from Beijing.

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