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US ambassador and former Iowa Gov. Branstad: China not blocking medical supply exports

Terry Branstad - AP image

Ambassador Terry Branstad also says the U.S. has concerns about how China initially handled the virus outbreak in the central city of Wuhan, but that such issues should be addressed after the pandemic has been brought under control.

Posted: Apr 15, 2020 5:54 AM

BEIJING (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to China said Wednesday that he doesn’t believe Beijing is deliberately blocking exports of masks and other medical supplies to fight the coronavirus, and that the shipment of 1,200 tons of such products to the U.S. could not have been possible without Chinese support.

Ambassador Terry Branstad also said the U.S. has concerns about how China initially handled the virus outbreak in the central city of Wuhan, but that such issues should be addressed after the pandemic has been brought under control.

“Let’s focus now on saving lives and helping people,” Branstad told a small group of reporters.

Chinese officials are believed to have delayed reporting the outbreak for several crucial days in January due to political concerns, allowing the virus to spread further.

China has adamantly denied doing so, despite strong evidence, saying it has consistently provided accurate, timely information.

Despite working with half their normal staff, U.S. diplomats and local employees in China have been able to facilitate 21 flights of supplies on behalf of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with multiple private chartered flights, Branstad said.

He said there had been a slowdown in the provision of supplies, but that it appeared to be caused by China's implementation of stricter quality standards following complaints it was sending shoddy equipment abroad.

“We have been able to solve several problems. We’re just trying to find a workable way to get it done," Branstad said, adding that a March 27 telephone conversation between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, had been “really helpful.”

“We always remind them of the leaders’ commitment to work together to address these issues,” the ambassador said.

“I feel good about it and I feel that, yes, they want to enforce their laws and regulations ... we’re trying to say let’s use some common sense in doing this and if it’s Food and Drug Administration approved and companies like 3M have already been shipping these things to the United States, it doesn’t make sense to hold them up when we feel confident that it meets the quality requirements that we have."

Shipments to the U.S. began after China's own demand for such gear fell in recent weeks, alongside a sharp decline in its number of new cases and a gradual rise in people declared cured and released from hospitals.

China reported 46 new virus cases on Wednesday, 36 of them from overseas. Of the 10 domestic cases, eight were in the province of Heilongjiang that borders on Russia where authorities have been rushing to stem a new outbreak among those traveling back to China.

It said almost 1,100 people were also under quarantine as suspected cases or for having tested positive for the virus without showing symptoms. China says it has recorded a total of 3,342 deaths among 82,295 cases.

“Now with domestic Chinese demand for personal protective equipment receding to more normal levels, our mission’s most urgent priority is to help get (personal protective equipment) and medical equipment to the United States as quickly as possible," Branstad said.

Earlier, American diplomats evacuated the consulate in Wuhan and organized charter flights to bring out U.S. citizens. Worldwide, the state department has organized the return of about 60,000 U.S. citizens from more than 100 countries.

Chinese cooperation both in providing antivirus supplies and implementing the first phase of a trade deal aimed at ending disputes over tariffs and intellectual property may actually help ease friction between the world's two largest economies, said Branstad, a former long-term governor of the important agricultural state of Iowa.

“I am hopeful that because of the collaboration and work on fighting the virus, and also of course the phase one of the trade agreement, that there will be a better relationship going forward," Branstad said.

“We’re two big countries, the two biggest economies in the world. Our systems are very different and there's always going to be certain areas of tension and conflict," he said.

While saying that the two sides should not engage in political sniping, Branstad criticized a tweet by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on March 12 which said: “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!”

Zhao provided no evidence and the comment prompted the State Department to summon China's ambassador to protest.

Branstad said Zhao's comment was “really outrageous and counterproductive from the Chinese perspective because there’s no credibility with that and that was unfortunate.”

China has said the tweet did not constitute an official statement.

“I think we’ve moved beyond that and are focusing on the future and on cooperation," Branstad said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 318763

Reported Deaths: 3652
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin673361116
Ramsey28256505
Anoka22583228
Dakota22414190
Washington14207116
Stearns13976117
St. Louis8991112
Scott859755
Wright795543
Olmsted681134
Sherburne601541
Clay508957
Carver486215
Kandiyohi420522
Rice419237
Blue Earth418016
Crow Wing364034
Otter Tail321723
Chisago315612
Nobles309930
Benton305751
Winona284830
Douglas266837
Mower265823
Polk261224
Morrison233829
Lyon223011
Beltrami219218
McLeod217914
Becker209416
Goodhue208428
Steele19917
Isanti194217
Itasca193923
Carlton191316
Todd182514
Nicollet164026
Mille Lacs157031
Freeborn15546
Le Sueur148811
Cass146010
Brown145715
Waseca139811
Pine13958
Meeker13289
Roseau12194
Martin117420
Hubbard115725
Wabasha10781
Redwood97919
Chippewa9147
Cottonwood8964
Renville89529
Dodge8700
Watonwan8634
Wadena8156
Sibley8004
Rock7889
Aitkin77830
Pipestone74118
Fillmore7240
Houston7134
Yellow Medicine66512
Pennington6638
Kanabec62713
Swift5998
Murray5953
Faribault5732
Pope5531
Clearwater5268
Stevens5243
Marshall5059
Jackson4961
Lake4326
Koochiching3996
Wilkin3925
Lac qui Parle3863
Unassigned38559
Lincoln3651
Norman3537
Big Stone3242
Mahnomen3044
Grant2806
Kittson2298
Red Lake2163
Traverse1491
Lake of the Woods1011
Cook770

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 229327

Reported Deaths: 2395
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33896336
Linn14340166
Scott1132587
Black Hawk10968137
Woodbury10428129
Johnson964137
Dubuque927491
Story684522
Pottawattamie644070
Dallas641757
Sioux372725
Webster363936
Cerro Gordo359046
Marshall351246
Clinton333844
Buena Vista307314
Muscatine293469
Des Moines291620
Warren283214
Plymouth277142
Wapello257372
Jones233615
Jasper224344
Marion206821
Lee205017
Carroll199922
Bremer196712
Henry18417
Crawford176916
Benton171821
Tama154940
Jackson146513
Washington146215
Delaware144921
Dickinson140311
Boone138311
Mahaska127927
Wright12706
Clay11924
Buchanan118510
Hardin116510
Page11524
Hamilton11429
Clayton11238
Cedar109313
Harrison108630
Kossuth10847
Calhoun10757
Mills10647
Floyd106216
Fayette105610
Lyon10538
Butler10266
Poweshiek99713
Winneshiek98413
Iowa97612
Winnebago93124
Cherokee9014
Hancock8737
Sac8738
Grundy87111
Louisa86818
Chickasaw8664
Allamakee82811
Cass81823
Mitchell8035
Appanoose79912
Humboldt7855
Union7796
Shelby77311
Emmet76824
Guthrie76315
Franklin74321
Jefferson7252
Unassigned6950
Madison6924
Palo Alto6574
Keokuk6157
Pocahontas5644
Howard5619
Osceola5341
Greene5310
Ida50013
Clarke4904
Davis4739
Montgomery47011
Taylor4673
Monroe44712
Adair4418
Monona4402
Worth3690
Fremont3663
Van Buren3615
Lucas3296
Decatur3200
Wayne3027
Audubon3002
Ringgold2202
Adams1712
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