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13 Mar, 2020 18:34

Bio-war-of-words: US summons Chinese ambassador over ‘disinformation campaign’ about coronavirus origin

Bio-war-of-words: US summons Chinese ambassador over ‘disinformation campaign’ about coronavirus origin

China's ambassador to Washington Cui Tiankai was summoned to the State Department after a spokesman for the foreign ministry in Beijing tweeted that the deadly coronavirus could have been seeded in Wuhan by the US military.

Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell summoned Cui on Friday over what he called a “blatant, global” disinformation campaign about the Covid-19 coronavirus. The ambassador was filmed leaving Foggy Bottom after the meeting, without answering questions shouted by US reporters.

The showdown came after Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, tweeted on Thursday that it might have been the US Army that brought the epidemic into Wuhan, the city in China’s Hubei province where the virus was first documented in December 2019.

"When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!" Zhao tweeted.

He was referring to the 300-strong US delegation that traveled to Wuhan in October for the Military World Games and included American service members.

Also on rt.com ‘Where was your patient zero?’ Chinese official speculates AMERICANS may have infected Wuhan at army games & calls to ‘come clean’

US President Donald Trump has made a point of calling Covid-19 a “Chinese” and “foreign” virus, earning condemnations not only from Beijing but also from much of the mainstream media and Democrats at home. Beijing has vocally protested any attempt to name the novel coronavirus after China or Wuhan, declaring them xenophobic, racist and unacceptable. 

China has refused to retract Zhao’s comments. When asked about them on Friday, his colleague Geng Shuang sidestepped the question and only said that questions still remain about the exact origin of the virus.

Also on rt.com Beijing won't disown spokesman’s theory of US hand in coronavirus outbreak

“They know where it came from. We all know where it came from," Trump said on Friday at a White House press conference, when asked about China’s efforts to resist labeling the virus as anything but "Covid-19.”

The dispute over that should not impact the trade arrangements negotiated with Beijing, he added.

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