Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Meyerkas said Thursday that China’s communist government “takes responsibility” to help the United States deal with the fentanyl crisis — pointing to areas where China could help the United States stop the flow of the drug into the country.
Meyerkas was asked at the Spain Security Forum whether China bears some responsibility for the US fentanyl crisis, given that the precursor chemicals originate there.
“The precursor chemicals, many of which have legal uses, the precursor chemicals, the pill presses that are used to make fentanyl, it’s very easy to manufacture, it’s very fast, it’s easy to hide,” he said. “We’ve caught vertical, tall vertical candles that have been hollowed out by bullets. China takes responsibility for that. We need their help to stop these chemicals and pill presses going in quantities that don’t reflect legitimate uses.”
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Illegal fentanyl is usually manufactured in labs in Mexico by cartels using precursors shipped from China. The United States has called for international cooperation to deal with the crisis and has appealed for help from both China and Mexico.
The drug is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and is often cut into pills with other drugs, meaning the user may not know they are taking fentanyl. It kills more than 70,000 Americans a year.
So far this fiscal year, the amount of drugs seized at the southern border has increased to more than 22,000 pounds, up from 14,000 pounds in fiscal year 2022 and just 5,600 pounds in fiscal year 2020.
Republicans have said the amount of fentanyl being seized is the result of a border crisis that has brought more drugs and immigrants to the border. The administration has hailed the increase in visits as a sign of success in its detection efforts. Meyerkas said Thursday that “some people have used the border as a means of immigration and smuggling of fentanyl” but noted that most of the seizures happen at ports of entry.
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Meyerkas said he recently visited JFK International Airport in New York City and saw a number of small packages containing drugs and firearms stopped.
“We’re focusing on supply from an enforcement perspective. We’re using artificial intelligence to advance our drug interdiction capabilities, to be able to see anomalies in passenger vehicles, commercial trucks. I would say the creativity of smugglers is extraordinary,” he said. “And yet our ease of creating response protocols is also extraordinary.”
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The U.S. is not the only country that has pressured the Chinese to do more to combat the fentanyl threat. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to do more in a letter this year in which he could not refrain from criticizing U.S. politicians who criticize his handling of Mexico’s rampant cartels.
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“I am writing to you, President Xi Jinping, not to ask for your help with these crude threats, but to ask for your humanitarian help to control the flow of fentanyl,” he said.
Fox News’ Aubrey Speedy contributed to this report.