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White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien compared on Sunday China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic to that of the Soviet Union’s reaction during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
“This was a virus that was unleashed by China. There was a coverup that someday they’re going to do an HBO show like they did with Chernobyl on this virus,” O’Brien said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday. O’Brien was referring to the 2019 miniseries that dramatized the 1986 explosion of a reactor at a nuclear power plant in Ukraine and the response from Soviet officials.
O’Brien added that, like Soviet officials in the 1980s, Chinese officials have covered up the extent of the pandemic -- which first surfaced late last year in Wuhan, the sprawling capital of Central China’s Hubei province – because “they kicked out all reporters and they wouldn’t let [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] investigators come in and they’re still stonewalling investigators.”
“It doesn’t matter if it was local officials or the Chinese Communist Party, it was a coverup and we’ll get to the bottom of it eventually,” he added.
On vaccine development, O’Brien said he was confident that the United States will develop one before China does and added that he thinks that Beijing will try to steal U.S. intellectual property if the vaccine is first developed in the U.S.
“There’s a chance, and it’s been reported, that the Chinese have been engaged in espionage to try to find the research and the technologies that we’re working on both for a vaccine and a therapy,” he said. “They’ve got a many-year history of stealing American intellectual property and knocking off American technology and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did that with the vaccines.”
The U.S. is pushing the World Health Organization to start work “now” on a planned independent review of its coordinated international response to the COVID-19 outbreak, at a time the Trump administration has repeatedly criticized the agency and is threatening to cut off U.S. funding for it.
Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, sent a letter to the UN health agency’s executive board meeting on Friday saying the United States believes the WHO can “immediately initiate" preparations such as bringing together independent health experts and setting up guidelines for the review.
President Trump has continually blamed China for allowing the pathogen to spread beyond its borders.
“This is a hit that came out of China,” Trump said during an interview that aired on WJLA on Sunday. “Whether we like it or not, it came out of China. It could have been stopped.”