Washington, United States:
The United States called China's ambassador on Friday after a senior official in Beijing tweeted the "ridiculous" suggestion that the US military had launched the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Department said.
David Stilwell, the leading US diplomat for Asia, gave Ambassador Cui Tiankai "strict representation" one day after State Department spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted the conspiracy theory.
"China is trying to divert criticism for its role in triggering a global pandemic and not saying anything to the world," said a State Department official.
"The spread of conspiracy theories is dangerous and ridiculous. We wanted to make the government aware that we will not tolerate them for the benefit of the Chinese people and the world," said the official.
A day earlier, Zhao suggested in Mandarin and English tweets, which received a lot of attention on Chinese social media, that "patient zero" in the global pandemic may have come from the United States – not from the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan, where there were cases first reported in late 2019.
"It could be the US Army that brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make your data public! The US owes us an explanation," tweeted Zhao, known for his provocative statements on social media.
His comment came when President Donald Trump's government, increasingly criticized for its own coronavirus response, increasingly highlighted the disease's foreign origins, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling it the "Wuhan virus".
In contrast to Zhao, Cui is known for his diplomatic approach. The day before he was called, Cui tweeted that China was hoping to work closely with the United States to fight COVID-19 for "a more successful future together".
Scientists widely believe that the pandemic started in a market in Wuhan that sold exotic animals for human consumption.
Trump spoke to reporters to announce the pandemic emergency and also rejected Chinese conspiracy theory when asked about it.
"You know where it came from. We all know where it came from," said Trump, who was also confident that the dispute would not affect a deal in the first phase to resolve a trade war.
Rampant conspiracy theories
Conspiracy theories have become widespread on social media, as the novel corona virus, with over 5,300 deaths and 140,000 infected, has a strong impact worldwide.
US officials previously told AFP that Russia has systematically spread disinformation to damage the United States' reputation. Coordinated Facebook and Twitter posts indicated that the United States is behind the new corona virus.
Russia declined responsibility for social media efforts, reminiscent of the former Soviet Union's 1980 campaign to link HIV to the U.S. government.
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written to the World Health Organization to open an investigation into the "biological war against humanity," questioning why US opponents China and Iran have been hit so hard.
Italy, a close ally of the United States, officially has the most cases of COVID-19 after China.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)