A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry has accused the U.S. Army of having spread the coronavirus to China.
Lijian Zhao, the spokesperson and Deputy Director General for the Information Department of the Foreign Ministry, posted a video on Twitter of a U.S. Congressional hearing in which lawmakers and CDC director Robert Redfield discussed potential U.S. coronavirus death’s being misdiagnosed as flu deaths. In his caption, Lijian appeared to suggest the first U.S. case of the coronavirus may have been far earlier than previously thought and that it may have been the U.S. Army that released the virus.
2/2 CDC was caught on the spot. When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation! pic.twitter.com/vYNZRFPWo3
— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) March 12, 2020
“It might be the US amy who brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” Lijian wrote. “Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation.”
Lijian appeared to base his assertions against the U.S. Army on the idea that the U.S. has been seeing coronavirus cases longer than previously reported. It is not clear from Redfield’s comments in the video when the misdiagnosed coronavirus cases occurred, though Lijian asked, “When did patient zero begin in US?”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman made his claims despite the general consensus that the coronavirus first began in Wuhan. China was the initial epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak and has seen the highest number of infections and deaths.
Reports have also circulated that the coronavirus began in a Chinese government lab in Wuhan. Though no Chinese officials have confirmed claims the virus started in a lab, a February New York Post article reported the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology released a directive titled: “Instructions on strengthening biosecurity management in microbiology labs that handle advanced viruses like the novel coronavirus.”
Claims about the Chinese government’s connection to the coronavirus may also stem from criticisms about its handling of the initial outbreak and reports it detained and harassed journalists and researchers for questioning the government’s handling of the virus.
Chinese officials have also been working to shift the blame for the spread of coronavirus away from China, according to the Washington Examiner.
“Every minute wasted on smearing and complaining would be better spent on enhancing domestic response and international cooperation,” another Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said just hours before Lijian placed the blame on the U.S. Army.
On Wednesday, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien assessed that the Chinese government “covered up” the initial outbreak of coronavirus.
“It probably cost the world community two months,” O’Brien said during an event in Washington.
O’Brien continued, “If we’d had those [two months] and been able to sequence the virus, and had the cooperation necessary from the Chinese, had a WHO team been on the ground, had a CDC team, which we’d offered, been on the ground, I think we could have dramatically curtailed what happened both in China and what’s now happening across the world.”