WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday urged all countries to be transparent and honest as they grappled with the coronavirus pandemic, a thinly-veiled swipe at China, which reported no deaths from the illness for the first time since the outbreak began.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses a news conference at the State Department in Washington, U.S., April 7, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis/Pool
Speaking at a State Department news conference, Pompeo did not mention China by name and avoided harsh rhetoric he has used recently. He has previously accused Beijing of covering up the scale of the outbreak in the early days and not sharing accurate data with the rest of the world.
He also refrained from using the term ‘Wuhan virus’ – a term that refers to the Chinese city where the outbreak originated late last year but one that has angered China. Pompeo was asked if he dropped the controversial phrase to ease bilateral tensions.
In his answer, he did not mention China or Beijing but said all countries have an obligation to provide accurate and timely data to help the world learn more about the virus.
“We have an expectation – that expectation is that every country will do that in the same way. Every nation, be they a democracy or not, has to share this information in a transparent, open, efficient way,” Pompeo said.
The shift in tone comes after a March 27 phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, after which Trump also dialed down his criticism of China’s handling of the virus.
Prior to the call, Washington and Beijing had been locked in a war of words for weeks. China has insisted that it has been open and transparent about the coronavirus epidemic in the country and sharply criticized U.S. officials who cast doubt on China’s disclosures.
The World Heath Organization became a Trump target on Tuesday, as he accused it of being too focused on China and of issuing bad advice during the coronavirus outbreak.
On Monday, mainland China reported no coronavirus deaths for the first time since the pandemic began and a drop in new cases, while Wuhan was set to lift its more than two month-long lockdown on Wednesday.
Pompeo also said the United States was going to keep critical medical supplies inside the country, given the domestic need, but announced that Washington was ready to provide more funding to help fight the pandemic globally.
“Today I can confirm that we are prepared to commit an additional $225 million in health, humanitarian and economic assistance to further boost response efforts worldwide,” he said.
Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, David Brunnstrom and Jonathan Landay, Editing by Franklin Paul and Bill Berkrot