US accuses China of withholding virus info

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has sharpened his criticism of China’s handling of a coronavirus pandemic, saying its ruling Communist Party is still denying the world information needed to prevent further cases.

The remarks, in an interview with the Washington Watch radio program, provoked a riposte from China that Pompeo should cease “politicising” the epidemic and defaming the country.

Pompeo had repeated previous charges that Beijing’s delay in sharing information about the virus had created risks to people worldwide that had “truly put thousands of lives at risk”.

“My concern is that this cover-up, this disinformation that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in, is still denying the world the information it needs so that we can prevent further cases or something like this from recurring again,” he said.

Pompeo also accused Iran and Russia of waging disinformation campaigns about the virus.

“The disinformation campaign from Russia and Iran as well as China continues,” he said. “They’re talking about it coming from the US Army and they’re saying maybe it began in Italy, all things to deflect responsibility.”

Despite his strong criticism of China, Pompeo refrained from referring to the virus as the “Chinese virus” or the “Wuhan virus”, labels that have angered Beijing and which he has used repeatedly.

“The time will come for recriminations,” he said but added it was important for the world to know what was really going on.

“This is an ongoing global crisis, and we need to make sure that every country today is being transparent, sharing what’s really going on, so that the global community, the global healthcare, infectious disease community can begin to work on this in a holistic way.”

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China had been transparent and shared information with the World Health Organisation and other countries, including the United States.

“We urge the US to cease politicising the epidemic, and cease attacking and defaming China,” Geng told a daily news conference on Wednesday. (Courtesy AAP)

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