China slams US ‘scapegoating’ before COVID origin report release

China decries the US ‘politicisation’ of efforts to trace the origin of the virus ahead of the release of a US intelligence report.

WHO team visits China
A joint WHO-China team visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology but the US said it had concerns about the access granted during the investigation [File: Thomas Peter/Reuters]

China has criticised the “politicisation” by the United States of efforts to trace the origin of the coronavirus, demanding a US military laboratory be investigated, shortly before the release of a US intelligence community report on the virus.

The US report is intended to resolve disputes among intelligence agencies considering different theories about how the coronavirus emerged, including a once-dismissed theory about a Chinese laboratory accident.

“Scapegoating China cannot whitewash the US,” Fu Cong, director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ arms control department, told a news briefing on Wednesday.

The US report was due to be completed by a Tuesday deadline but it would take a few days to prepare an unclassified version for public release, the White House press secretary said this week.

China has said a laboratory leak was highly unlikely. It has ridiculed a theory that coronavirus escaped from a lab in the city of Wuhan, where COVID-19 infections emerged in late 2019, setting off the pandemic.

China has instead suggested that the virus slipped out of a lab in Fort Detrick, Maryland, in 2019.

“It is only fair that if the US insists that this is a valid hypothesis, they should do their turn and invite the investigation into their labs,” said Fu.

On Tuesday, China’s envoy to the United Nations asked the head of the World Health Organization for an investigation into US labs.

A joint WHO-Chinese team visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology but the US said it had concerns about the access granted during the investigation.

When asked if China would stop talking about the Fort Detrick laboratory if the US report concluded the virus did not leak from a Chinese lab, Fu said: “That is a hypothetical question, you need to ask the US.”

Fu said China was not engaged in a disinformation campaign.

Biden given inconclusive intelligence report: Post

Meanwhile, US media reports said a classified US intelligence report delivered to the White House on Tuesday was inconclusive on the origins of the pandemic, in part due to a lack of information from China.

The assessment, ordered by US President Joe Biden 90 days ago, was unable to definitively conclude whether the virus that first emerged in central China had jumped to humans via animals or escaped a highly secure research facility in Wuhan, two US officials familiar with the matter told the Washington Post.

Despite Biden’s directive that the intelligence community “redouble their efforts” to untangle the origin debate, the 90-day review brought them no closer to consensus, the officials told the Post.

Former US President Donald Trump and his aides had helped fuel the lab-leak theory, using it to deflect blame for their administration’s handling of the world’s biggest outbreak, and instead finger point at Beijing, which strongly denies the hypothesis.

Source: News Agencies