Pompeo attacks China again, calls its $2.8b coronavirus fund 'paltry'

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WASHINGTON : US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took fresh aim at China over the coronavirus on Wednesday, calling the US$2 billion (S$2.8 billion) Beijing has pledged to fight the pandemic "paltry" compared to the hundreds of thousands of lives lost and trillions of dollars of damage.

Mr Pompeo rejected President Xi Jinping's claim that Beijing had acted with transparency after the outbreak in Wuhan and said if Mr Xi wanted to show that, he should hold a news conference and allow reporters to ask him anything they liked.

"President Xi claimed this week that China is acting with openness, transparency and responsibility. I wish it were so," Mr Pompeo told a State Department news conference, charging that Beijing continued to withhold virus samples and access to facilities, to censor discussion "and much, much more".

US-China tensions have spiked in recent weeks, with Mr Pompeo and President Donald Trump slamming Beijing's handling of the outbreak.

The US has been hardest hit in the global pandemic.

At a time when many nations are urging unity and cooperation to ramp up the virus battle, Mr Trump has proposed quitting the World Health Organisation over its response and called it a "puppet of China" while Mr Xi has pledged it US$ 2 billion.

"I look forward to seeing them fulfil that US$2 billion commitment," Mr Pompeo said.

"China's contributions to fighting the pandemic are paltry, compared to the cost that it has imposed on the world."

"This plague has cost roughly 90,000 American lives, more than 36 million Americans have lost their jobs since March; globally 300,000 lives. Could be as much as US$9 trillion, according to our estimates, cost imposition on the world of the Chinese Communist Party's failures," Mr Pompeo said.

In Beijing, China called Mr Pompeo "extremely irresponsible" and urged him to explain shortcomings in the US response to the virus.

"Why didn't the US government take any control and prevention measures between January and March?" said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

"Why did it fail to stem the fast spread of coronavirus in the United States? He has a responsibility to explain this to the world." - REUTERS