BEIJING (AFP) – Chinese authorities on Friday disputed US President Donald Trump s claim that most of the drug fentanyl, which is blamed for thousands of American deaths, was made in China, reports said days before his visit.
Last week, Trump declared the US opioid crisis a national public health emergency and vowed to step up the fight against an epidemic that kills more than 150 Americans every day.
He said the United States needed to stop “the flood of cheap and deadly fentanyl” that was “manufactured in China,” declaring that discussions on the topic would be a priority during his first state visit to Beijing next week.
China did not “deny or reject” the claim that some Chinese-produced fentanyl found its way into the US market, the deputy director of the Ministry of Public Security s narcotics control bureau Wei Xiaojun told a press briefing, according to the state-run Global Times newspaper.
But “according to the intelligence and information exchanged… between China and the US, the evidence is insufficient to illustrate that the majority of fentanyl or other new psychoactive substances come from China,” he said.
Legal and illegal synthetic opioids were behind most of the 64,000 drug overdose deaths across the US in 2016, a record level expected to rise further this year.
With the supply of prescription opioids on the market cut back in the past two years, addicts have turned to the cheapest alternative, fentanyl or heroin cut with fentanyl.
China, which is a significant producer and supplier of fentanyl and the chemicals used to make the compound, has outlawed an increasingly large portfolio of drugs this year at the behest of the US.
Last month, the US Department of Justice announced that it had indicted two Chinese nationals for selling fentanyl made in labs in China to US consumers over the Internet.
Wei criticized the decision, expressing “regret” that the US had chosen to act “unilaterally,” as it would “impact the ongoing joint investigation into the case” by the two countries.
An estimated 2.6 million Americans are hooked on prescription opioid painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone, or on heroin and fentanyl.