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Accused of "piracy", US denies diverting masks bound for Germany

  • Patpicha Tanakasempipat

    Reuters

Bangkok, Thailand   /   Mon, April 6, 2020   /   05:37 pm
Accused of Women, wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, wait to buy seafood at a morning market in Thailand's southern province of Narathiwat on Saturday. (AFP/Madaree TOHLALA )

The United States had no knowledge of a shipment of face masks bound for Germany that officials in Berlin have accused it of diverting from an airport in Bangkok, a spokeswoman for the US embassy in Thailand said.

The comment came after Berlin Secretary of Interior Andreas Geisel said on Friday that an order of 200,000 masks bound for Germany had been "confiscated" in Bangkok and diverted to the United States, calling it an "act of modern piracy".

"The United States Government did not take any action to divert any 3M supplies that were destined to Germany nor did we have any knowledge of such a shipment," Jillian Bonnardeaux, the spokeswoman for the US embassy in Bangkok, told Reuters.

"We remain concerned about pervasive attempts to divide international efforts through unsourced, unattributed disinformation campaigns."

Thai authorities were not reachable on Monday as the country was observing a public holiday.

The accusation that masks were diverted came at a time when countries are scrambling to secure protective gear to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Allies of the United States from Europe to South America have complained about "Wild West" tactics they say Washington has employed to outbid or block shipments of medical supplies to original buyers.

Globally, there were more than 1.25 million cases of coronavirus and 68,400 deaths across 211 countries and territories, as of Monday morning, according to a Reuters tally.

Although Germany's Geisel said on Friday the consignment had been "confiscated" in Bangkok, his office rowed back a day later, saying it was still trying to clarify the circumstances of how the masks, which were ordered from a German wholesaler, and not from US manufacturer 3M, had been diverted.

A spokeswoman for 3M had told Reuters the company had no evidence that its products had been seized.

US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that "there has been no act of piracy".