Deputy Secretary evades questions on State Department’s failure to publicly call out China’s fentanyl links in lead-up to the Secretary’s planned trip to Beijing
WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today pressed Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to explain the State Department’s recent self-censorship on China’s role in the fentanyl crisis in the days prior to Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Beijing that was ultimately canceled amid the Chinese spy balloon incident.
In the roll out of sanctions against three Mexican drug traffickers on January 30, 2023, less than a week before Secretary Blinken’s planned trip to China, the Treasury Department’s press statement named Chinese entities and prominently cited the Mexican drug traffickers’ importation of “precursor chemicals from China into Mexico, which are then used to manufacture synthetic drugs, including fentanyl,” while the State Department’s parallel press statement omitted any mention of China or Chinese links to the sanctioned Mexican drug traffickers.
“It was shocking for me to see in real time the Chinese spy balloon fly with impunity over the states that are home to some of America’s most sensitive military and nuclear weapon sites, including my home state of Tennessee,” Hagerty said. “But the Chinese Communist Party is also responsible for less visible, but nevertheless deadly violations of American sovereignty that are taking place every day: I’m talking about China’s exportation of fentanyl chemical precursors.”
“Deputy Secretary Sherman, why did the State Department omit any mention of China in the Secretary of State’s press release statement on the fentanyl sanctions against Mexican drug lords?” Hagerty asked.
Sherman avoided directly answering Hagerty’s question and asserted that Secretary Blinken “certainly would have had this as a key topic in his meetings in Beijing.”
“Communist China is a State Sponsor of Fentanyl,” Hagerty responded. “You missed a great opportunity here by pulling back on a chance to mention the fentanyl sanctions to publicly hold China accountable for its role in the fentanyl scourge that’s killing children in America.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that more than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, and the vast majority of these deaths—more than 71,000—were caused by fentanyl.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported that China is a “primary source” of the fentanyl-related substances that are trafficked directly into the United States.