G-7 leaders reportedly balked at US insistence that Covid-19 be called the ‘Wuhan virus’ and blaming China for a “disinformation campaign” about it, letting the group’s conference call end without a joint statement.
Following the hours-long teleconference with the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK – since the physical meeting of the group has been canceled due to the pandemic – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assured reporters that everyone was on board with his view of things.
“Every one of the nations that were at that meeting this morning was deeply aware of the disinformation campaign that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in to try and deflect from what has really taken place,” Pompeo told the sparse crowd at the State Department briefing room on Wednesday.
According to the German magazine Der Spiegel, however, the other G-7 leaders did not see eye to eye with Pompeo on naming the virus after Wuhan – the Chinese city where it was first detected – insisting on the more diplomatic term “Covid-19” adopted by the World Health Organization.
Der Spiegel lamented that the coronavirus is “destroying the last remnants of the existing world order,” noting the “great frustration” in Berlin and Paris over Washington’s unilateralism.
The draft of the joint statement proposed by the US also blamed China, Russia and Iran for “the deliberate propagation of false narratives” about the coronavirus, according to BuzzFeed, which said it saw the document.
Pompeo specifically went after a recent tweet by a spokesman for the foreign ministry in Beijing, describing as “crazy talk” his claim that there was no proof the virus originated in China and that it could have been brought to Wuhan by a US military delegation. The State Department had even summoned China’s ambassador to Washington over the tweet, which remains up and has not been officially disavowed.
During the press conference Wednesday, the top US diplomat also sought to diminish China’s aid to other countries stricken by the outbreak, saying it amounted to “small sales of product around the world and claiming that they are now the white hat.”
The US, he added, was “finalizing plans” to send excess military equipment to Italy, which has been the hardest-hit by Covid-19 in Europe, and has already received help in medical personnel and supplies from China, Russia and Cuba.
Pompeo has been pressuring Washington’s European allies to line up against China long before the coronavirus outbreak, declaring last November that the new enemy of NATO was the Chinese Communist Party, and denouncing China, Russia and Iran as countries whose “value systems are simply very different from ours.”