China hits out at US claims of coronavirus research hacking as tensions flare

Tensions escalated between China and the United States on Thursday, with Beijing hitting back at a reference to COVID-19 as the “plague from China” and Washington’s allegation that Chinese hackers were targeting coronavirus research.

Iran Press/Asia: The pandemic has strained an already rocky relationship between China and the US, with the two sides trading accusations over the origin of the virus which has killed nearly 300,000 people worldwide.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian described the latest US allegations as “smears” that would not help to combat the crisis.

The FBI and a US cybersecurity agency on Wednesday said China-linked hackers were targeting US groups researching vaccines, treatments, and testing to undermine America’s response to the pandemic.

The US has long accused the Chinese government of cyberespionage and intellectual property theft, both of which Beijing has repeatedly denied.

Zhao said China had made significant progress in the fight against the pandemic and that slanders and accusations would not defeat the virus.

“We are leading the world on coronavirus vaccine and treatment research,” he said. “So China should be the one who has more reason to worry about cyberattacks."

“We urge the US side to focus on saving lives, and strengthen China-US cooperation on the coronavirus and public health, instead of shifting focus and deflecting blame,” he said.

US President Donald Trump on Thursday told Fox Business Network that he was “very disappointed in China” after the novel coronavirus broke out soon after the two countries agreed on a phase one trade deal.

Trump also tweeted late on Wednesday that the world had been “hit by the plague from China” soon after the agreement was signed, a term also used by US national security adviser Robert O’Brien.

Zhao called on the US to handle the pandemic in a transparent and responsible manner, instead of shifting the blame, saying China notified the World Health Organisation on December 31 about what was then an unknown type of pneumonia in Wuhan.

He said it was also communicated to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on January 2.

“American politicians often talk nonsense in order to discredit others. O’Brien should get the facts straight before he speaks,” Zhao said.

“For example, in 2009, swine flu was believed to originate in the United States, and Aids first broke out in the United States," China's Foreign Ministry Spokesman added.

“If American politicians really put the safety and health of the American people first, they should immediately stop blaming and discrediting other countries, and concentrate on doing their own prevention and control work and promoting international anti-epidemic cooperation. This is the only right way,” he said.


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