A United States citizen died from the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, American officials said on Saturday. It was the first known American death from the illness, and was likely to add to diplomatic friction over Beijing’s response to the epidemic.
The death is also certain to raise questions over whether the Trump administration and the State Department in particular have taken sufficient action to ensure the safety of Americans in China and to aid in the evacuation of those who want to leave.
In a statement, the State Department took a defensive tone, saying that since Jan. 29, it had evacuated around 850 people, most of them Americans, on five charter flights out of Wuhan.
The agency said it had “no higher priority than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad,” but there are no current plans to conduct additional evacuation flights, even as some Americans in other parts of China have been asking for the United States government to evacuate them.
Relations between Washington and Beijing have been tense for years over issues including trade, technology and human rights. While Chinese officials have touted the importance of international cooperation to combat the virus, doubts have arisen in recent days about China’s willingness to accept a helping hand — particularly from the United States.
Though some Trump administration officials have privately expressed skepticism over China’s handling of the outbreak, President Trump himself lavished praise on Chinese leaders on Friday. Mr. Trump told reporters in Washington that he had spoken with President Xi Jinping of China on the telephone late Thursday. “They’re working really hard and I think they’re doing a very professional job,” he said.
Mr. Trump has said often that he likes and admires Mr. Xi, and he has toned down his attacks on China since the two sides signed an agreement last month to halt a damaging trade war that Mr. Trump started in 2018.
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SOURCE: The New York Times, Raymond Zhong and Edward Wong