A Chinese official on Friday disputed President Donald Trump’s claim that the deadly opioid fentanyl flooding the U.S. is mostly produced in China.
China doesn’t deny that some fentanyl produced illicitly inside the country is contributing to the epidemic, Wei Xiaojun, deputy director-general of the Narcotics Control Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security, said at a news conference.
However, according to the intelligence the two countries have exchanged, “the evidence isn’t sufficient to say that the majority of fentanyl or other new psychoactive substances come from China,” Wei said.
Trump last month said the U.S. was stepping up measures to “hold back the flood of cheap and deadly fentanyl, a synthetic opioid manufactured in China and 50 times stronger than heroin.”
He said he would mention it to Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing next week. “And he will do something about it,” Trump said.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s representative in Beijing, Lance Ho, declined to comment on Wei’s assessment.
Wei also said the Justice Department’s public announcement last month of indictments against two Chinese men accused of making tons of fentanyl and other powerful narcotics sold in the U.S. could impede efforts to bring them to justice.
“I have to admit regret regarding the U.S. move to unilaterally use the method of calling a news conference to announce the matter of these two wanted individuals who’ve fled to China,” he said.
The release of information would “impact on the ongoing joint investigation into the case,” Wei said, adding that China noted the U.S. failure to mention their successful cooperation on this and other cases.
The Justice Department said Xiaobing Yan, 40, and Jian Zhang, 38, worked separately but similarly and controlled one of the most prolific international drug-trafficking organizations. The lack of an extradition treaty significantly reduces the chances they will be returned to the U.S. for trial.
The Trump administration’s anti-drug efforts suffered another recent setback when its nominee as drug czar withdrew from consideration following reports that he played a key role in weakening the federal government’s authority to stop companies from distributing opioids.
Trump last week declared opioid abuse a national public health emergency and announced new steps to combat the crisis.
Fentanyl can be lethal even in small amounts and is often laced with other dangerous drugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the drug and its analogues killed more than 20,000 Americans last year, and the number is rising.
Friday’s rare news conference, held in the Ministry of Public Security’s tightly guarded compound near Tiananmen Square, appeared aimed at emphasizing China’s progress on cooperation with the U.S. on fighting opioids ahead of Trump’s visit.
China has noted Trump’s announcement of an opioid crisis and “China attaches great importance to this,” Wei said.