TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. government on Friday (March 13) summoned Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai (崔天凱) to the State Department to address Beijing’s controversial suggestion the U.S. army is responsible for bringing the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to China.
The conspiracy theory was proposed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China Spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) a day prior on Twitter. He implied the U.S. military "may" have planted the virus in the Chinese city of Wuhan, adding a video of a U.S. official admitting that some Americans who were thought to have died from influenza may have died from COVID-19 instead.
Contrary to the consensus shared by the rest of the world, Zhao accused the U.S. of hiding information about its first domestic patient and suggested the virus was a bioweapon developed by the Western superpower. The tweet has since sparked debate among American and Chinese netizens, arguing about the validity of the accusation.
On Friday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell had "stern" words with Cui, who remained "very defensive" during the meeting, according to a senior State Department official. The official added the U.S. government believes the remark was part of the Chinese government's strategies to deflect criticism from the global community for starting the outbreak, reported CNN.
As the global pandemic continues to worsen, so do relations between China and the U.S., with officials and politicians from both sides labeling the other as the source of the virus. Since the outbreak started in December, Beijing has been condemned for its initial attempts to censor reports about the disease, but has tried to shift the blame for the pandemic to the U.S., according to Reuters.