A top Chinese government official says President Donald Trump wasted weeks responding to the threat of a coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.
In an interview with NBC News on Tuesday, Executive Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng challenged Trump’s handling of the virus and rejected allegations that China covered up the initial outbreak. Le called the virus a natural disaster and said China should not be held financially liable for the outbreak.
"On Jan. 23 when Wuhan went under lockdown, the United States reported only one confirmed case, but on March 13 when President Trump announced a national emergency, the United States reported over 1,600 confirmed cases," Le told NBC News. "In this interval of 50 days, what was the U.S. government doing? Where have those 50 days gone?"
Le said the two countries need to work together to combat the virus and that the virus is the enemy, not China.
"I think it’s really important for the U.S. government to find the right focus, the real enemy," he said.
Le said that Trump’s politicizing of the virus and pointing blame at China is “short-sighted" and “irresponsible.”
Trump has placed blame on China for the pandemic repeatedly. He has accused the country of altering its reported death toll and launched an investigation to see whether the virus was leaked from a Chinese lab.
Le said the Chinese public was "angry" and "entitled to express their outrage" at the U.S. politicization of the pandemic.
"Unfortunately, some political figures are politicizing this COVID-19,” Le said. “They’re using this virus to stigmatize China. This is not something we are willing to see.”
Le said any requests asking China to make reparations were "preposterous" and presented an "out-and-out political farce."
"There is no international law that supports blaming a country for simply being the first to report a disease," Le said.
Le said he would support scientific investigations into the origin of the virus that don't reinforce “conspiracy theories."
"We do not oppose normal communication and mutual learning between scientists," he said. "What we do oppose is arbitrary investigations based on the presumption of China’s guilt. That is something we firmly oppose."
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