Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a Chinese disinformation campaign around the coronavirus is part of an attempt to shift responsibility for dragging their feet in responding to the outbreak months ago.
At the same time, he said the world should be focused on fighting the actual pathogen instead of pointing fingers.
“Now is not the time for recrimination,” Mr. Pompeo told reporters. “There will come a day when we will go evaluate how the entire world responded.”
Mr. Pompeo said the Chinese government did, however, have a special responsibility to sound the alarm over the virus after it popped up in Wuhan, Hubei Province, in December.
“It took an awful long time for the world to become aware of this risk that was sitting there, residing inside of China,” Mr. Pompeo said.
America’s top diplomat was responding to claims by Chinese authorities that the coronavirus might have originated in a U.S. military lab.
Scientists say the pandemic likely began when the virus hopped from animals to humans, potentially at a market in Wuhan, China.
Chinese authorities have also moved to expel U.S. reporters at major publications amid the tit-for-tat over the virus.
Mr. Pompeo said he hopes they’ll reconsider and that “more transparency” will save lives in China.
Elsewhere, Mr. Pompeo said the U.S. stands ready to help Iran as its death toll from the virus approaches 1,000.
“I hope they’ll take us up on these humanitarian efforts,” he said.
The secretary said the State Department has limited travel and will follow health guidelines to avoid the coronavirus within its ranks, but will maintain its diplomatic mission.
“We’ll never sacrifice that capability,” Mr. Pompeo said.