China accused the United States on Thursday of trying to shift blame over the coronavirus, after President Donald Trump said the pandemic was a worse “attack” than Pearl Harbor or 9/11.
The tension between the world’s two biggest economies has reached fever pitch in recent days as they have exchanged barbed comments on each other’s handling of the virus.
“We urge the US side to stop shifting the blame to China and turn to facts,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a press briefing.
On Wednesday Trump drew analogies with the virus, which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan last year, and infamous military and terrorist attacks on the United States.
“This is really the worst attack we’ve ever had,” Trump told reporters. “This is worse than Pearl Harbor. This is worse than the World Trade Center.”
The Japanese assault on the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii drew the United States into World War II.
The September 11, 2001 jihadist attacks killed about 3,000 people and triggered two decades of war.
Trump said the coronavirus pandemic “should never have happened”.
“Could have been stopped at the source. Could have been stopped in China,” he said.
Hua responded: “They might say the pandemic is comparable to Pearl Harbor or 9/11, but the enemy facing the US is the novel coronavirus”.
She said Washington should “fight side-by-side” with Beijing instead of as “enemies”.
Hua added that “lots of foreign countries, experts and scientists have all made positive comments on China’s effective virus prevention and control.”
“But the US alone has made some very disharmonious, untruthful and insincere remarks,” said Hua.
China said for the first time Thursday that researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were trained in the US and France, as it faces repeated US claims that the coronavirus pandemic originated there.
“Wuhan’s P4 lab is a collaborative project between the Chinese and French governments,” Hua told a press briefing.
The 300-million-yuan ($42 million) lab was formally opened in 2018, with the founder of a French bio-industrial firm, Alain Merieux, acting as a consultant.
The lab’s French ties have previously sparked concern in France. The Institut Merieux, Alain Merieux’s firm, has strenuously denied taking part in the lab’s design, construction and management.
French President Emmanuel Macron has also denied that there was any evidence linking the Wuhan P4 lab to COVID-19.
The coronavirus, which first emerged in central China late last year, has now killed more than 73,000 people in the US.