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US summons Chinese envoy over Beijing’s coronavirus comments

The US State Department summoned the Chinese ambassador to the United States on Friday to protest against comments by Beijing suggesting the US military might have brought the coronavirus to Wuhan, as tensions between the two global powers over the outbreak intensified.

David Stillwell, the top US diplomat for East Asia, delivered a very “stern representation” to China’s ambassador Cui Tiankai, a State Department official said, adding that Beijing’s envoy was “very defensive.”

The State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said China was seeking to deflect criticism of its role in “starting a global pandemic and not telling the world.”

“Spreading conspiracy theories is dangerous and ridiculous. We wanted to put the government on notice we won’t tolerate it for the good of the Chinese people and the world.”

Defence Department Spokeswoman Alyssa Farah wrote on Twitter on Friday that “the Communist Party of China has chosen to promulgate false & absurd conspiracy theories about the origin of COVID-19 blaming US service members. #ChinaPropaganda”

The virus, also called COVID-19, has infected 138,000 people worldwide and killed more than 5,000.

China’s embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

Despite the signs of tension, US President Donald Trump praised Beijing on Friday for its “data sharing”.

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