China Trying to Steal Coronavirus Vaccine Research, But U.S. Will Develop It First: Trump National Security Advisor

United States National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien on Sunday said China is likely using espionage to try and steal U.S. coronavirus vaccine research, but he declared American scientists would develop it first.

During an appearance on CBS News' Face the Nation, O'Brien said the U.S. is going to "develop a vaccine first," after host Margaret Brennan asked him if the American public would be able to benefit from a coronavirus vaccine should China beat Western researchers. But he didn't rule out the possibility China could move ahead in development by spying on or stealing U.S. technology.

"Now there's a chance and it's 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," O'Brien said. "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."

If China develops a vaccine for the U.S., would it be made available to the American public?

Robert O'Brien: "I think we're going to develop a vaccine first" but notes he "wouldn't be surprised" if China stole U.S. intellectual property associated with vaccine development.

— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) May 24, 2020

O'Brien said U.S. researchers are pushing ahead with the development of both vaccines and therapies regardless of China's actions. He relayed Trump's vow that if American scientists develop the coronavirus vaccine first "we're going to share it with the whole world."

Newsweek reached out to the White House and the Chinese Embassy in Washington for additional comments Sunday.

The FBI, CIA and Homeland Security agencies issued a May 13 statement the U.S. is investigating the People's Republican of China "targeting of COVID-19 research organization." The U.S. agencies warned researchers of both potential cyber and physical threats and said Chinese cyber attacks were detected "attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property and public health data related to vaccines, treatments and testing."

O'Brien reiterated that China knew about the coronavirus in between November and December of last year and chose to "cover-up" reports of its origins and spread. He said Chinese authorities were giving "false information" to the World Health Organization (WHO), although he was unsure if it was local Wuhan officials or Beijing.

O'Brien said the Chinese government is blocking scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from coming into the country to investigate the initial spread of COVID-19.

"The real information was not allowed to get out and it was a cover up and we'll get to the bottom of it eventually but it's hard to do in a closed, communist society," he said.

O'Brien compared the events to the Soviet cover-up of Chernobyl in the 1980s, saying China's handling of the coronavirus will one day get its own HBO special, a reference to the dramatic television mini-series Chernobyl.

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National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien said China is likely using espionage to try and steal U.S. coronavirus vaccine research, but he declared American scientists would develop it first. Screenshot: CBS | Face the Nation