(CNSNews.com) – Ahead of a State of the Union address in which President Biden called for a “major surge” to tackle the deadly opioid epidemic, a U.S. Navy admiral and former U.S. Pacific Command commander said Tuesday the U.S. “should never give China a pass” over its responsibility for the fentanyl crisis.
When Biden addressed the fentanyl issue during his speech, he was heckled by some House Republicans, with one of them yelling what sounded like “it’s coming from China.”
Fentanyl has been identified as the leading killer of Americans between the ages of 18 and 49. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 100,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2021, with synthetic opioids like fentanyl accounting for two-thirds of the deaths.
The majority of the precursor chemicals for producing the deadly drug are reported to come from China.
Hours before Biden’s speech, retired Adm. Harry Harris Jr. told the House Armed Services Committee that the U.S. needs to “pressurize China more, and ensure that the world understands that China is behind the fentanyl crisis – not only in America, but elsewhere.”
Another part of addressing the crisis, he said, was “the enforcement piece, at the point of entry into the United States, which is Mexico and the cartels.”
“But we should never give China a pass on the fact that they’re behind the manufacture of this scourge across America,” said Harris, who served as U.S. Pacific Command commander until retiring from naval service in 2018, when he became ambassador to South Korea until 2021.
In response to a question, Harris said he did not hold the view that the situation was the result of a concerted Chinese Communist Party strategy to kill Americans.
“It doesn’t strike you though as curious that our biggest adversary is responsible for almost all the fentanyl that comes in, flows into this country – ?” asked Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.).
“I think it’s concerning,” said Harris. He agreed with Banks that “it is a national security issue.”
A White House State of the Union fact sheet listed “key actions” the administration plans to take to tackle the issue, including leading “a sustained diplomatic push that will address fentanyl and its supply chain abroad.”
“The administration will work with international partners to disrupt the global fentanyl production and supply chain, and call on others to join our efforts. We will focus on seizing chemical ingredients and fentanyl before it can reach our communities, and hold accountable the producers, traffickers, and facilitators of these deadly drugs,” it said.
“Many of these ingredients and materials originate outside our borders, and we will call on global partners to work with us and do more to disrupt the criminal elements within their countries who sell chemicals and tools for the production of counterfeit pills around the world.”
At a White House briefing ahead of Biden’s speech, Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta was asked about this planned “diplomatic push.”
“One of the things that we know is important is to make sure that we’re addressing the entire global supply chain of fentanyl and precursor compounds,” he said. “This is why the President has been so forward leaning when it’s talking with President López Obrador in Mexico or President Xi in China.”
Gupta said the administration has “specific asks” of China, to take steps that would “significantly reduce, if not eliminate, that shipping of precursor chemicals – but also at the same time to ensure that where the production happens of fentanyl, which is mostly in Mexico, that we’re working with the Mexican authorities and the leadership there.”
He said Biden’s diplomatic push would aim to “ensure that we’re working with these countries to hold illicit actors accountable in their countries. And we want to work with the leaders of these countries to make sure that they do just that.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price said last month that China-origin precursor chemicals “still make their way to third countries and ultimately form the basis of so much of the fentanyl that arrives in the United States and kills our citizens.”
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