Pompeo conveyed 'strong U.S. objections' to Beijing over COVID-19
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[March 17, 2020]
By Humeyra Pamuk
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A war of words
between China and the United States showed no signs of let up on Monday,
with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a phone call with a top
Chinese diplomat expressing "strong U.S. objections" over what
Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to shift blame for the spread of
Ties between the world's top two economies, already complicated due to
issues including trade, intellectual property rights as well as press
freedoms, have further been tested by the outbreak of coronavirus, which
causes the sometimes fatal, highly contagious respiratory illness
"Secretary Pompeo conveyed strong U.S. objections to PRC efforts to
shift blame for COVID-19 to the United States," Morgan Ortagus, State
Department spokeswoman said in a statement about Pompeo's call with Yang
Jiechi, director of the Office of Foreign Affairs of the Communist Party
"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 suggesting the U.S. military might have
brought the coronavirus to Wuhan. David Stilwell, the top U.S. 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 harmed China's
interests would be retaliated against.
[to top of second column]
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks to the media at
the State Department in Washington, U.S., March 5, 2020.
The coronavirus, which emerged in China late last year, has spread
around the world, upended many countries' daily lives, pummeled
financial markets, brought flights to a standstill, shut down
schools and forced the postponement of almost all gatherings
including sports and arts events.
Globally over 174,100 have been infected and nearly 6,700 have died.
U.S. 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. Since January,
it has imposed draconian containment measures, effectively locking
down Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, home to 60 million
Pompeo, who has sharply criticized Beijing on a number of issues
from its trade practices to religious freedoms, has complained that
the U.S. response had been hindered by what he called imperfect data
However on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump praised China for its
"data sharing" and appeared to brush off any concern, saying he had
read one article on the subject, but that he did not think it was
representative of his discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Editing by Franklin Paul and Marguerita
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