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China: Pompeo has 'sinister motive' for pushing 'Wuhan virus' language

China's government is taking aim at Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo imposes visa restrictions on Chinese officials over 'intimidation' tactics Israel's new Gulf relations give Biden's team a new Middle East hub Pompeo knocks Turkey in NATO speech: report MORE in the country's harshest criticism yet of Trump administration officials who have insisted on referring to COVID-19 as the "Wuhan" or "China" virus.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang accused Pompeo of harboring "sinister" motives against China and attempting to point blame for the virus's spread, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

“He has a very sinister motive,” Geng said in a statement, adding that Pompeo was attempting to "stigmatize China and discredit China’s efforts in an attempt to divert attention and shift responsibilities.”

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Pompeo's insistence on using the "Wuhan virus" label, after the city in China where the outbreak is believed to have originated, has reportedly blocked a joint statement from leaders of the Group of Seven nations, who met remotely this week to discuss the coronavirus outbreak.

On Wednesday, Pompeo again criticized the Chinese government when asked if his insistence on the label was the reason for the holdup.

“We’ve wanted to work with the Chinese Communist Party throughout this crisis — this crisis that began in Wuhan, China,” Pompeo told reporters. “We tried, you’ll remember, from the opening days to get our scientists, our experts on the ground there so that we could begin to assist in the global response to what began there in China, but we weren’t able to do that. The Chinese Communist Party wouldn’t permit that to happen."

President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE has repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as the "Chinese Virus" in public statements, while defending his use of the term and insisting that no racial connotation should be taken from it. 

"It’s not racist at all. No. Not at all," the president told reporters last week. "It comes from China. That’s why. It comes from China. I want to be accurate."

Asian Americans have reported increased levels of harassment and discrimination amid the outbreak.