U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday stepped up pressure against China for engaging in a "disinformation campaign" over the coronavirus pandemic, saying that the Group of Seven industrialized countries are all "deeply aware" of such activities.
"There was a lot of discussion today amongst the G-7 about the intentional disinformation campaign that China has been and continues to be engaged in," Pompeo said after speaking with his G-7 counterparts in a videoconference the same day, expressing frustration over suggestions in China, including in official social media posts, that the virus may have been brought in by the U.S. Army.
"This is crazy talk," he said, adding, "Every one of the nations that was at that meeting this morning was deeply aware of the disinformation campaign that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in to try and deflect from what has really taken place here."
(File photo of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo)
As the virus continues to disrupt businesses and social life in the United States, the administration of President Donald Trump has increasingly sought to blame Beijing for the global spread of the disease, saying China was slow to inform other countries of the problem despite being the first to know the risks.
Trump and Pompeo have also called it the "Chinese virus" or "Wuhan virus," asserting that it should be named after the place where it originated. The illness was first reported in central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
Pompeo insisted on using the term "Wuhan virus" in a joint statement with other G-7 members, but the proposal was declined, resulting in separate statements, according to several media reports.
Other members refused to use the phrase because it was viewed as needlessly divisive at a time when international cooperation is necessary to slow the worldwide spread and ramp up medical supplies, The Washington Post reported, citing officials from G-7 countries.
Pompeo would not agree to a statement that did not include the term, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing an official from a country involved in the meeting.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted earlier in the month that the U.S. Army might have brought the epidemic to Wuhan. He has also argued that the United States is trying to shift the blame to China by denigrating its efforts to fight the epidemic.
Additionally, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying has said that China has been updating the United States on the new coronavirus and its response since Jan. 3. "And now blame China for delay? Seriously?" she recently tweeted.
Pompeo said at the press conference on Wednesday that the United States would like to work with "every country around the world" to fight the global pandemic and is prepared to assist China. But he said it is clear that China needs to provide accurate and transparent information.