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Pompeo calls for China cooperation as virus tensions renew

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Washington (AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called for coronavirus cooperation in talks with a top Chinese official, signaling a bid to keep a lid on renewing tensions.

President Donald Trump's administration has berated China for not sharing data more quickly and said Tuesday it was freezing funds to the World Health Organization for not challenging Beijing.

Pompeo renewed his push for "full transparency" in a call Wednesday with senior Chinese official Yang Jiechi, but the State Department's tone was unusually positive.

Pompeo "noted the aid the American people delivered to the people of China in January -- and continue to offer -- and the high importance we attach to China's facilitation of medical supply exports to meet critical demand in the United States," the State Department said.

"The two sides confirmed their commitment to defeat the COVID-19 outbreak and restore global health and prosperity," it said.

China is a vital source of masks and other supplies desperately needed by the United States, which has the highest number both of infections and deaths from the virus.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had appeared to reach a truce in a phone call late last month, with Trump and Pompeo afterward ending the provocative use of the terms "Chinese virus" and "Wuhan virus."

Even if the rhetoric is more civil, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday that China should provide more information on the virus that originated in its metropolis of Wuhan.

"Even today, we see them withholding information. And so I think we need to do more and continue to press them to share," Esper told Fox News.

Trump's Democratic rivals say the WHO announcement was a dangerous attempt to divert attention from problems in the US response as Trump gears up for elections.

Trump himself had in January said he had the virus "totally under control" and praised China as transparent.

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