Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed back Monday against Chinese attempts to blame the United States for the coronavirus outbreak during a phone call with a communist party official in China, the State Department said.
Pompeo made the comments to People’s Republic of China Politburo member Yang Jiechi, with the State Department saying the secretary condemned the spreading of "disinformation and outlandish rumors."
"Secretary Pompeo conveyed strong U.S. objections to PRC efforts to shift blame for COVID-19 to the United States," State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a Monday statement. "The secretary stressed that this is not the time to spread disinformation and outlandish rumors, but rather a time for all nations to come together to fight this common threat."
The phone call came after Lijian Zhao, the spokesperson and deputy director-general for the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Information Department, suggested in a Thursday tweet that the U.S. Army could have brought COVID-19 to Wuhan, China -- without presenting any evidence to support this theory.
The World Health Organization has said the infection was first discovered in Wuhan.
The State Department on Friday summoned the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. after Zhao's comments.
Zhao wrote on Twitter last week: “When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals?”
Zhao went on to suggest that it “might be [the] US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan."
“Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation,” he wrote.
Days earlier, China’s ambassador to South Africa also downplayed his country’s role in the pandemic.
“Although the epidemic first broke out in China, it did not necessarily mean that the virus originated from China, let alone 'made in China,'" he tweeted.
The remarks come as part of a massive public relations campaign from the Chinese to convince the world that the United States bears the blame for the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed roughly 5,000 lives around the globe.
In the United States, Democrats such as Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., have claimed that referring to the virus as the "Chinese coronavirus" is "racist" in nature, but they have not claimed that it came from anywhere else.
Fox News' Rich Edson and Adam Shaw contributed to this report.