WASHINGTON: US officials believe China covered the scope of the coronavirus outbreak, and how contagious the disease is, to stock up on the necessary medical supplies to respond to it, intelligence documents show.
Chinese leaders "intentionally concealed the severity" of the world pandemic in early January, according to a four-page intelligence report from the Department of Homeland Security dated May 1 and obtained by The Associated Press. The revelation comes as the Trump administration intensified its criticism of China, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that the country was responsible for the spread of the disease and should be held responsible.
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The sharpest rhetoric coincides with administration critics who say the government's response to the virus was slow and inadequate. Political opponents of President Donald Trump accused him of lashing out at China, a geopolitical enemy but a critical trade partner of the United States, in an attempt to deflect criticism in his country.
Not classified but marked "for official use only", the DHS analysis states that while minimizing the severity of the coronavirus, China increased imports and decreased exports of medical supplies. He tried to cover it up "by denying export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying the provision of his trade data," the analysis said.
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The report also says that China stopped informing the World Health Organization that the coronavirus "was contagious" for much of January in order to order medical supplies from abroad, and that its imports of face masks, surgical gowns and gloves increased. drastically.
Those conclusions are based on the 95% probability that China's changes in imports and export behavior were not within the normal range, according to the report.
In a tweet on Sunday, the president appeared to blame US intelligence officials for not clarifying earlier how dangerous a possible coronavirus outbreak could be. Trump has been defensive about whether he failed to act after receiving early warnings from intelligence officials and others about the coronavirus and its potential impact.
"Intelligence just informed me that I was correct, and that they did NOT bring up the CoronaVirus issue until the end of January, just before I banned China from the United States," Trump wrote without citing details. "Also, they only talked about the virus in a very non-threatening way, or actually."
Trump had previously speculated that China could have unleashed the coronavirus due to some sort of horrible "mistake". His intelligence agencies say they are still examining a notion put forth by the president and aides that the pandemic may have resulted from an accident in a Chinese laboratory.
Speaking on ABC on "This Week" Sunday, Pompeo said he had no reason to believe the virus was deliberately spread. But he added: "Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running inferior quality laboratories."
"These are not the first times that we have had a world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese laboratory," Pompeo said. "And so, as the intelligence community continues to do its work, they should continue to do it and check to be sure, I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan." "
The secretary of state appeared to refer to previous outbreaks of respiratory viruses, such as SARS, that started in China. His comment may be seen as offensive in China. Still, Pompeo repeated the same statement hours later, via tweet on Sunday afternoon.
Speaking on Fox News Channel's "Sunday Morning Futures" Sunday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, echoed that sentiment, saying he believes China "is the most important geopolitical threat to the United States for the next century." .
"The communist government in China has a huge responsibility, a huge blame for this pandemic. We know they covered it up," Cruz said. "If they behaved responsibly and sent health professionals and quarantined those infected, there is a real possibility that this could have been a regional outbreak and not a global pandemic. And the hundreds of thousands of deaths throughout the world are, in a very real sense, a direct responsibility for the lies of the Chinese communist government. "

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