A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Thursday accused the U.S. Army of sending the coronavirus to China, a charge expected to be countered by the Trump administration as disinformation.
Zhao Lijan, spokesperson and deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry information department, made the claim on Twitter, a social media platform banned in China.
Mr. Zhao asked in a tweet when the first patient to contract the disease caused by the virus was detected and how many people were infected.
“What are the names of the hospitals? It might be U.S. army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” he wrote. “Be transparent! Make public your data! U.S. owe us an explanation!”
Mr. Zhao offered no evidence for the claim but the comments followed earlier Chinese government statements suggesting the coronavirus originated outside China.
The Trump administration is planning a high-level response to what it regards as an outrageous propaganda statement designed to fuel anti-American sentiment in China and around the world.
Mr. Zhao, the spokesman, then referred to a group called the Centre for Research on Globalization, that published in Montreal, Canada, an article under the headline “Further evidence that the virus originated in the U.S.”
The Washington Times disclosed last week that a senior Chinese medical official announced that the coronavirus originated outside China, which fueled rumors throughout China and the rest of Asia that the CIA has bioengineered the virus as a weapon.
The CIA denied the disinformation.
White House National Security Robert O’Brien, at a speech at the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday, called out the Chinese for mishandling the virus outbreak.
“This outbreak in Wuhan was covered up,” Mr. O’Brien said, noting that the coverup delayed a global response by two months.
The origin of the coronavirus remains a mystery. It first surfaced in early December when the first victims developed viral pneumonia and many, but not all, had a link to a wild animal market in Wuhan.
In recent weeks, the Chinese government appears to have backed away from the Wuhan market theory on the origin, and shifted to claiming the virus was introduced into China from abroad.
Wuhan is the location of China sole declared Level-4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The laboratory is engaged in research on deadly coronaviruses and has been linked to China’s covert biological weapons program.