BEIJING (Reuters) - China and the United States have only “limited” cooperation in stopping fentanyl smuggling, a Chinese narcotics official was quoted as saying on Tuesday, after complaints China isn’t doing enough to help fight an opioid crisis in the United States.
U.S. officials say China is the main source of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances that are trafficked into the United States, much of it through international mail. China denies that most of the illicit fentanyl entering the United States originates in China.
U.S. President Donald Trump last month accused Chinese President Xi Jinping of failing to meet his promises to crack down on the deluge of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues flowing into the United States. China labeled that “blatant slander”.
Fentanyl is a cheap, relatively easy-to-synthesize opioid painkiller 50 times more potent than heroin that has played a major role in a devastating U.S. opioid crisis.
Liu Yuejin, Vice Commissioner of the China National Narcotics Control Commission, told a news conference that China was cracking down on illicit fentanyl production, state television reported.
“The National Narcotics Control report states that looking at cases, counter-narcotics law enforcement departments from China and the United States have for many years maintained a good cooperative relationship,” the report cited Liu as saying.
“But cooperation on investigating and prosecuting fentanyl-related substances is extremely limited.”
Since 2012, the United States has only reported “clues” on six fentanyl-related smuggling cases to China, with only three of these cases successfully cracked, the report added.
Since May 1 of this year, when China tightened controls on fentanyl-related substances, China has not yet discovered a single fentanyl-related smuggling case, Liu said.
Liu reiterated previous government denials that China is the source of most of the fentanyl smuggled into the United States.
China has told the United States it needs to get its house in order when it comes to tackling fentanyl abuse, and should do more to reduce demand.
The U.S. Treasury last month imposed sanctions on three Chinese men accused of illegally trafficking fentanyl, acting three weeks after Trump accused China of reneging on pledges to stem the flood of the highly addictive synthetic opioid into the United States.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse reported earlier this year that 130 people die every day in the United State after overdosing on opioids, which include prescription pain relievers, heroin and synthetic drugs like fentanyl.
The dispute over fentanyl comes as the United States is in the middle of a major trade dispute with China.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore