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US summons Chinese ambassador over coronavirus comments

The US administration has summoned China’s ambassador to Washington to protest the recent comments by a Chinese foreign ministry official suggesting that the US military was responsible for the spread of the new coronavirus in the Asian country.

“He was summoned with regard to what the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said over COVID-19,” a State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Friday.

Zhao Lijian, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, blasted the US on Thursday for what he called lack of transparency in official reports regarding the coronavirus outbreak in the US.

He suggested that the US military might have brought the new coronavirus to the Chinese city of Wuhan, the birthplace of the current global pandemic.

“When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!” Zhao said in a tweet.

The Chinese government had been criticized by Western media and particularly by US officials for what was alleged to be a slow response to the outbreak and of not being sufficiently transparent.

Beijing has, however, been taking strict measures since the outbreak began, including locking down Wuhan, a city of roughly 11 million people, which appears to have paid off.

The COVID-19 disease, caused by the new coronavirus, emerged in the provincial capital of Hubei late last year and is currently affecting 131 countries and territories across the globe. It has so far infected over 137,000 people and killed more than 5,000 others.

The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.