By Duncan Smith
President Trump’s national security adviser said Sunday he “wouldn’t be surprised” if China attempted to steal U.S. research and development of a successful coronavirus vaccine.
In an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Robert O’Brien said he believes the U.S. will become the first country to develop a successful vaccine, but that China is already working to steal the technology.
“I think we’re going to develop a vaccine first,” the president’s adviser said on Sunday. “Now, there’s a chance, and it has been reported that the Chinese have been engaged in espionage to try and find the research and the technologies that we’re working on — both for a vaccine and a therapy.”
“Look, they’ve got a many, many year history of stealing American intellectual property and knocking off American technology, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did that with the vaccines,” O’Brien added.
The FBI noted earlier this month that Chinese hackers were already attempting to access and steal U.S. coronavirus research.
But O’Brien repeated the administration’s earlier position that, once U.S. health experts develop a vaccine, it will be shared with the world.
“One of the things the president has said, if we have a vaccine, we’re going to share it with the whole world,” the top White House adviser said.
His comments come as most states begin to reopen and allow residents to go back to work under certain conditions.
At the same time, health experts are working to quickly develop a vaccine for COVID-19 under the auspices of a Manhattan Project-style program called “Operation Warp Speed” commissioned by President Trump.
The objective of the team is to develop a vaccine by year’s end after initial projections for a successful vaccine earlier this year were 12-18 months.
The White House has publicly accused the Chinese of being culpable for the creation and spread of coronavirus globally.
“This is a virus unleashed by China,” O’Brien noted, accusing the Chinese government of exacerbating the spread of the disease by attempting to cover it up during the outbreak’s early stages in Wuhan.
“The Chinese knew this was happening in November, December, January, and were getting false information to the [World Health Organization].”