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10 APRIL 2024

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Pompeo blasts China for false narrative over Covid-19


CORONAVIRUS | US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stepped up his offensive against China for what he says is disinformation over the origin and spread of the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed more than 35,000 lives.
Last week, he said that Beijing’s delay in sharing information about the virus had created risks to people worldwide and this has truly put thousands of lives at risk
Pompeo (above) continued along this track during a live telephone conference last night conducted with journalists from nine countries from the Asia-Pacific region. Malaysiakini was the solo Malaysian outlet represented.
“There are immense challenges with China,” said Pompeo, who served as a hardline Republican congressperson representing Kansas’ 4th district before US President Donald Trump appointed him to direct the CIA in January 2017 and then to head the State Department in April 2018.
“There are places where the president has identified, where reciprocity doesn’t exist.
“We’ve seen that in trade, we’ve seen that with respect to how journalists are treated. Freedom of information – how it flows across borders and across the region, so it will continue to be just as we identified early on in the administration.”
While declining to go into specific details, Pompeo voiced his belief that China is actively pursuing disinformation to the extent that it hampers the prevention of further cases or the recurrence of a similar outbreak in the future. He added that Iran and Russia were also guilty of this.
“The narratives are different, but each of them has the same component, which is to avoid responsibility and try and place confusion in the world.
“Confusion about where the virus began, but also confusion about how countries are responding to it and which countries are actually providing assistance around the world,” Pompeo added.
Tensions on this matter escalated after Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian took to Twitter on March 13 with the extraordinary claim that it might have been the US army that brought the virus epidemic to Wuhan, which is acknowledged to be the epicentre of the virus.
This prompted a furious response from the Trump administration, which summoned Beijing’s ambassador in Washington to express its displeasure.
Trump then went on to repeatedly call Covid-19 the “Chinese virus”.
The outbreak was first identified in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province in December 2019 and most of its initial fatalities were in Wuhan itself. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak to be a pandemic on March 11.
“We think it’s important that these narratives are corrected. President Trump has clearly corrected the record,” Pompeo said.
“We are in the middle of the struggle. I hear people talk about disinformation. They focus solely on what happened at the beginning. But the need for transparency, the need for clear data stats, the need to make such sure that cases are identified and accurately reported.”
On Chinese-made test kits...
In a veiled reference to doubts raised over Chinese-made test kits for the new coronavirus, Pompeo said there were “people sending goods around the world” and that there was a need to make sure they are of high quality and functional.
“When China made the decision to force Western press out of China, we thought that was a bad thing, not only because we believe in freedom of information but because it will reduce the capacity to understand what is happening.
“It’s so important whether it’s about testing or mortality rates or potential therapeutic developments, all of those things – we have to make sure the information is passed accurately, timely and in a way that is easily comprehensible so that we can consolidate the information.
“This is a global pandemic. The solution will depend on people working together all across the world,” Pompeo said.
Asked for proof of the disinformation, Pompeo said he had nothing to say beyond what is in the open press.
“We've seen what those governments are reporting. When you think about the United States and our ability to track what's happening here in our states and counties - we report accurately, we share that information promptly and publicly so that every nation in the world can see it.
“We do our best, even in the middle of the crisis, to identify the things that we're doing that are slowing the spread of the disease as well as those things are keeping people alive. It's important that every nation share that information.
“As the data set grows larger, technicians, medical providers, scientists, healthcare researchers across the world will come together and provide the solution that will ultimately be the key factor that decides how big a crisis this will ultimately become,” he said.
Pompeo added that whether it was Iran, North Korea or anyplace else in the world, he hoped that these countries will choose to be transparent with respect not only to the number of cases and their mortality rate but the things that they've done to try and reduce that, so that we can begin to develop effective counter-measures to the crisis on a global basis.
Pompeo also declined to directly address press reports that last week’s virtual G7 meeting failed to issue joint statement on Covid-19 virus after he insisted on calling it the ‘Wuhan virus’.
“Unfortunately that was some pretty bad reporting. The truth is we had an enormously successful G7 gathering where there was a collective belief that we had a responsibility as the G-7 to respond to the Covid-19 and that we need to do in a way that represented the best of the West in terms of technology and our ability to deliver solutions that are on a global scale.”
The G7 grouping comprises seven of the world’s largest economic powers - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US.
Misinformation campaigns
“We also talked a great deal about misinformation campaigns. The Europeans made it clear that they are experiencing it as well. One of the ministers told me that they are being harassed in Africa, harassed because another country had made the claim that the virus was generated or created in Europe,” Pompeo added.
He said that the G7 leaders understand the importance of information and timely data statistics so that the world can understand what has really taken place.
“We can make sure it doesn’t happen again and make quick determinations about how to get this crisis resolved,” he said.
Despite the combative stance, Pompeo left the door open for a continued relationship with China.
“We were one of the very first countries to offer support to China. We flew in assistance to Wuhan within days of the outbreak there. We offered technical help and additional levels through WHO and all of the good offices of the various multilateral organisations that are working in China and the region as well,” he said.
“We will continue to find every opportunity to work alongside China. We have an important economic relationship. Shortly before this, we were completing the first part of a trade deal, and the second part of that will follow, not too far behind.
"They have been a true strategic competitor for the United States, I don’t expect that will change. But we have learnt some things. We need to ensure that we have the right resources for moments just like this,” Pompeo said.
Malaysiakini is seeking China embassy for a response. - Mkini

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