China says it has been ‘open towards cooperation with US’ on coronavirus crisis

Teddy Ng

China on Friday said it had been “open towards cooperation” with the United States to contain the coronavirus outbreak, rejecting a senior White House official’s claim that there was a lack of transparency over the crisis.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said health authorities from both sides were in close communication and exchanging information on the epidemic.

“China has been active and open towards cooperation with the US,” Geng told a press conference conducted via social media app WeChat – a special arrangement to avoid a group gathering because of the outbreak.

“The Chinese and American departments of disease control, medical research, development and technology, as well as scientists, have been engaging in various forms of exchanges,” Geng said. “We welcome foreign experts’ participation in the China-WHO joint mission, including those from the US.”

He said China would continue working with the international community, including the US, to tackle the epidemic and protect global health security.

The new coronavirus, which causes a disease now officially known as Covid-19, has killed more than 1,300 people and infected over 63,000 since the outbreak began in central China in December, and it has spread to more than 20 countries.

Geng’s comments came after Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, said the US felt let down by a lack of transparency from China over the crisis.

“We are a little disappointed that we haven’t been invited in and we’re a little disappointed in the lack of transparency coming from the Chinese,” Kudlow told reporters.

US President Donald Trump on Thursday again praised his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for his government’s response to the outbreak, but Kudlow said unanswered questions were mounting and there was no sign of the promised cooperation.

“President Xi assured President Trump that China was on it and there would be openness, they would accept our help,” he said.

“We’re more than willing to work with the UN [and] WHO on this and they won’t let us. I don’t know what their motives are. I do know that apparently more and more people are suffering over there.

“Is the Politburo really being honest with us?” he asked, referring to communist China’s top leadership body.

Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, said unanswered questions were mounting. Photo: AFP

An international mission led by the World Health Organisation is expected to arrive in China over the weekend.

China had been praised by the WHO for its handling of the outbreak, in contrast to the way it concealed the extent of the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic in 2002-03.

The United States, like a number of other countries, has imposed entry restrictions on people travelling from mainland China in a bid to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, prompting Beijing to accuse Washington of “spreading fear”.

In contrast, Geng on Friday welcomed the European Union health ministers’ decision not to ban travellers from China from entering the visa-free Schengen Area.

“We hope relevant countries will stay calm, make science-based assessments and rational responses, and respect the WHO’s authoritative recommendations,” Geng said.

“Since the outbreak of the epidemic, China and the EU have been in close communication and cooperation. We want to express our heartfelt thanks to the EU and its member states for their support and assistance,” he said.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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