Row Over Trump Language
The row nonetheless came as the coronavirus has divided the United States and China, with Trump and Pompeo repeatedly speaking of the “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus” — a reference to the metropolis where cases were first detected.
“It did come from China, so I think it’s very accurate,” Trump told reporters in defending his terminology.
Trump indicated that another motive was payback for what he said was China’s disinformation campaign.
“I didn’t appreciate the fact that China was saying that our military gave it to them. Our military did not give it to anybody,” Trump said.
The United States last week summoned the Chinese ambassador after a foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing, Zhao Lijian, tweeted a conspiracy theory that suggested that the US military brought the virus to Wuhan.
China is “strongly indignant” over Trump’s use of the term, which is “a kind of stigmatization,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said earlier Tuesday.
The World Health Organization has also advised against geographic terms for illnesses, saying they can discourage people from seeking assistance.
China last month already expelled three other Wall Street Journal reporters — two Americans and one Australian — over what it deemed a racist headline by the US newspaper.
The headline, “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia”, was on an opinion piece that the three journalists were not involved in writing.
The expulsions had also been seen by some observers as a tit-for-tat move over the US decision to reclassify Chinese state-run media operating in the United States as foreign missions.
They were the first outright expulsions by China of a foreign journalist since 1998, according to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China.
by Laurent THOMET / with Shaun Tandon