US intelligence agencies looking into data from Wuhan lab
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Scapegoating China cannot whitewash the US
The document is intended to resolve disputes among intelligence agencies considering different theories about how the coronavirus emerged, including a once-dismissed theory that the virus had escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology – although its findings are understood to be inconclusive. Fu Cong, director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ arms control department, told a briefing today: “Scapegoating China cannot whitewash the US.
“If they want to baselessly accuse China, they better be prepared to accept the counterattack from China.”
Also speaking today, a White House official said Mr Biden had been briefed on the classified report.
He added: “We look forward to having an unclassified summary of key judgments to share soon.”
US officials say they did not expect the review to lead to firm conclusions after China stymied earlier international efforts to gather key information on the ground.
One suggested the report would likely point to additional lines of inquiry which officials could pursue, including demands of China that are likely to further ratchet up tensions with Beijing at a time when the country’s ties with Washington are at their lowest point in decades.
China insists a laboratory leak was highly unlikely and has ridiculed a theory that coronavirus escaped from a lab in Wuhan, the city where COVID-19 infections emerged in late 2019.
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Beijing has instead suggested the virus slipped out of a lab at the Army’s Fort Detrick base in Maryland in 2019.
Fu said: “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.”
Referring to Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation, Fu added: “If Dr Tedros believes that we should not rule out the hypothesis of a lab leak, well, he knows where to go. He needs to go to the US labs.
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A joint WHO-Chinese team visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology – but the United States has concerns about the access granted to 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 denied China was engaged in a disinformation campaign.
COVID-19 has killed 4.6 million people worldwide, but its precise origins remain shrouded in mystery.
The first officially confirmed cases emerged in Wuhan in December 2019 and US agencies started looking into the origins shortly afterwards.
Earlier this month, a dossier prepared by Republicans serving on the House Foreign Affairs Committee claimed the virus leaked from the Wuhan lab, and that it was time to “completely dismiss” the city’s wet market as the source of the disease.
In a statement issued shortly afterwards, Texan Congressman Mike McCaul, the committee’s ranking Republican, said: “It is our belief the virus leaked sometime in late August or early September 2019.
“When they realised what happened, Chinese Communist Party officials and scientists at the WIV began frantically covering up the leak, including taking their virus database offline in the middle of the night and requesting more than $1million for additional security.
“But their cover-up was too late – the virus was already spreading throughout the megacity of Wuhan.
“Within a month, satellite images show a significant uptick in the number of people at hospitals around the WIV with symptoms similar to COVID-19.”
China rejected the claims from the report.
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