US national security adviser Robert O'Brien and President Donald Trump board Air Force One. Photo: AFP.

You would think that mankind had progressed enough, that they would work together to take on an evil scourge like the new coronavirus.

But no, not a chance … in fact, accusations are flying over alleged vaccine espionage.

During an appearance on CBS News’ Face the Nation on Sunday, US national security adviser Robert O’Brien said China was likely using espionage to try to steal US coronavirus-vaccine research, but he declared that American scientists would develop it first, Newsweek reported.

But O’Brien told host Margaret Brennan he didn’t rule out the possibility China could move ahead in development by spying on or stealing US technology, Newsweek reported.

“Now there’s a chance and it’s been reported that the Chinese have been engaged in espionage to try and find the research and the technologies that we’re working on both for a vaccine and a therapy,” O’Brien said.

“They’ve got a many, many year history of stealing American intellectual property and knocking off American technology and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did that with the vaccines.”

O’Brien said US researchers were pushing ahead with the development of both vaccines and therapies regardless of China’s actions, Newsweek reported. He relayed President Donald Trump’s vow that if American scientists develop the coronavirus vaccine first “we’re going to share it with the whole world.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency and Homeland Security agencies issued a May 13 statement that the US was investigating the People’s Republic of China over the “targeting of Covid-19 research.”

The US agencies warned researchers of both potential cyber and physical threats and said Chinese cyberattacks were detected “attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property and public health data related to vaccines, treatments and testing.”

O’Brien reiterated that China knew about the coronavirus in between November and December of last year and chose to “cover up” reports of its origins and spread, Newsweek reported.

He said Chinese authorities were giving “false information” to the World Health Organization (WHO), although he was unsure if it was local Wuhan officials or Beijing.

O’Brien said the Chinese government was also blocking scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from coming into the country to investigate the initial spread of Covid-19, Newsweek reported.

“The real information was not allowed to get out and it was a cover up and we’ll get to the bottom of it eventually but it’s hard to do in a closed, communist society,” he said.