WASHINGTON (TIP): U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday accused China of “stealing” U.S. intellectual property and data related to COVID-19 research.
Mr. Pompeo’s allegations came a day after the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security claimed that organizations conducting research into COVID-19 may be targeted by computer hackers linked to the Chinese government.
The U.S. condemns attempts by cyber actors and non-traditional collectors affiliated with People’s Republic of China (PRC) to steal U.S. intellectual property and data related to COVID-19 research, Mr. Pompeo said in a statement.
The United States calls on China to cease this malicious activity, Mr. Pompeo said, adding that the potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options.
China on Thursday termed as slanderous the U.S. accusation that hackers backed by Beijing may be attempting to steal COVID-19 related research and vaccine materials and said that “smearing and scapegoating” others will not make the deadly virus go away.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said U.S. officials are shifting the blame on Beijing as they struggled to handle the coronavirus pandemic back home.
The U.S. claims have added fuel to tensions between the two nations, which are engaged in a war of words over the origin of the coronavirus that has killed over 300,000 people globally. Mr. Pompeo alleged that China’s behavior in cyberspace is an extension of its counterproductive actions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Pompeo in the strongly-worded statement said while the U.S. and its allies and partners are coordinating a collective, transparent response to save lives, “China continues to silence scientists, journalists, and citizens, and to spread disinformation, which has exacerbated the dangers of this health crisis.
The FBI said that it is “investigating the targeting and compromise of U.S. organizations conducting COVID-19-related research by China-affiliated cyber actors and non-traditional collectors.”
“These actors have been observed attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property (IP) and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research,” the FBI said.
The potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options, it said.
Meanwhile, President Trump, annoyed with China’s handling of the pandemic, has ruled out renegotiating a trade deal with China.
“The Chinese said somewhere that they would like to renegotiate the (trade) deal. We are not going to renegotiate,” Mr. Trump told Fox Business News on Thursday, May 14.
“Look, I’m not happy about anything having to do with that particular subject (China) right now. Everything I said turned out to be right. You look at other countries they charge us tariffs to do business and we are not allowed to charge them,” he said.
Responding to a question, Mr. Trump said the Chinese have always stolen Intellectual Property (IP) from the U.S. “They were never called (out). Now they are being called out,” he said.
“We can stop them; they are going to try doing it. I mean you could also stop doing business with them, that is one thing. Look, we have lost a fortune dealing with China. We have rebuilt China,” he said.
The President said he does not want to speak to Chinese President Xi Jinping right now. “I have a very good relationship, but I just — right now I don’t want to speak to him,” he said.