US says ‘significant evidence’ coronavirus came from China lab

Putting blame on China, United States reportedly looking to punish Beijing over coronavirus outbreak.

While some individual states have already filed lawsuits against China, the administration of US President Donald Trump is reportedly considering measures against Beijing for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump’s position is that China could have done more to warn and protect the world from the pandemic.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday said “enormous evidence” showed the new coronavirus originated in a lab in China, further fueling tensions with Beijing over its handling of the outbreak.

Trump, increasingly critical of China’s management of the first outbreak in the city of Wuhan in December, last week claimed to have proof it started in a Chinese laboratory.

Scientists believe the virus jumped from animals to humans, after emerging in China, possibly from a market in Wuhan selling exotic animals for meat.

Coronavirus: Lessons from Asia

Trump, without giving details, said Thursday he had seen evidence the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the source, appearing to echo speculation fueled by US right-wing radio commentators about a secret lab.

China denies the claims and even the US Director of National Intelligence office has said analysts are still examining the exact origin of the outbreak.

‘Infecting the world’

Pompeo, a former CIA chief, told ABC News he agreed with a statement from the US intelligence community about the “wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified”.

But Pompeo went further than Trump citing “significant” and “enormous” evidence the virus originated in a Wuhan lab.

“I think the whole world can see now, remember, China has a history of infecting the world and running substandard laboratories.”

Pompeo said early Chinese efforts to downplay the coronavirus amounted to “a classic Communist disinformation effort. That created enormous risk”.

“President Trump is very clear: we’ll hold those responsible accountable.”

Dangerous situation’

Trump warns of consequences if China ‘knowingly responsible’ for COVID-19

Some Democrats have said Trump is trying to shift blame to avoid responsibility for a slow response to the pandemic that has resulted in the US having by far the largest numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

“Not wanting to take responsibility as the deaths continue to mount, he blames others,” Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont said in a statement.

US news reports say Trump has tasked US spies to find out more about the origins of the virus, as he makes China’s handling of the pandemic a centerpiece of his campaign for the November presidential election.

Shawn Zeller from Congressional Quarterly Magazine said one way to retaliate against Beijing would be for Washington to bring “back to America some of the manufacturing capacity that has been glaringly lacking during this crisis”.

“We are in a dangerous situation in the United States when our medicine is produced in China, when the masks and gowns and other protective equipment that we need are produced in China. So I could certainly see movement there to bring that manufacturing back – which would hurt China,” Zeller told Al Jazeera.