THE U.S. State Department have summoned the Chinese ambassador hours after comments suggesting the U.S. military may have been responsible for bringing the coronavirus to Wuhan.
It comes and President Donald Trump declares a national emergency over the COVID-19 outbreak.
The claims were made by a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman in the midst of a U.S. and China blame game for the COVID-19 outbreak.
An anonymous State Department official revealed the Chinese ambassador was summoned "with regard to what the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said over COVID-19."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijan made the accusation on Thursday, writing on Twitter:
"When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!"
Zhao did not offer any evidence for his suggestion that the US military might be to blame for the outbreak in China.
Chinese ambassador Cui Tiankai was summoned to the State Department shortly after Zhao's comments were posted to his 300,000 followers.
Tensions have been brewing for weeks between the United States and China over who is to blame for the coronavirus outbreak.
US National Security Adviser, Robert O'Brien, claimed that the speed of China's reaction to the medical emergency had probably cost the world two months when it could have been preparing for the outbreak.
His criticism came as the U.S. faced criticism over what many are calling a dangerously poor reaction from the White House, leading to a national shortage of testing kits.
Mr O'Brien said: "Unfortunately, rather than using best practices, this outbreak in Wuhan was covered up"
"We have done a good job responding to it but the way that this started out in China, and the way it was handled from the outset, was not right."
"It probably cost the world community two months to respond," during which "we could have dramatically curtailed what happened both in China and what's now happening across the world".
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian hit back at O'Brien, saying that it was the United States that lacked transparency.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also criticised U.S. officials for their "immoral and irresponsible" comments.
Geng told Beijing press that such remarks by US officials would not help epidemic efforts and said that China's actions to slow the spread had bought the world time to prepare.
He said: "We wish that a few officials in the US would at this time concentrate their energy on responding to the virus and promoting cooperation, and not on shifting the blame to China."
China says it has now managed to reduce the number of cases and most reported cases are now coming out of other countries.
The Chinese authorities credit firm measures they took in January and February, including the near total shutdown of Hubei, for preventing outbreaks in other Chinese cities on the scale of Wuhan and slowing the spread abroad.
However there have been conflicting reports of the true nature of what is going on on the ground, with accusations of a cover up as far back as January.
Trumps administration has said that their decision to limit air travel from China at the end of January has stemmed the outbreak.
It is broadly believed that the wet markets in Wuhan caused cross contamination leading to the virus' spread.
There are 128,400 known cases across the world; around 81,000 are in China, with 3,179 reported dead. The US has 1,701 cases with 40 dead.
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