Covid origins: China criticises US 'scapegoating'

China criticises US 'scapegoating' as Covid origin report to be released

US officials say they did not expect the review to lead to firm conclusions after China stymied earlier international efforts to gather key information

China has suggested that the virus slipped out of a lab at the Army's Fort Detrick base in Maryland in 2019. Credit: iStock photo

China criticised on Wednesday the US "politicization" of efforts to trace the origin of the coronavirus, demanding without any evidence that US labs be investigated, ahead of the release of a US intelligence report on the virus.

The US reportis 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 briefing.

A White House official said on Wednesday that President Joe Biden had been briefed on the classified report. "We look forward to having an unclassified summary of key judgments to share soon," the official said.

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.

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

China has instead suggested that the virus slipped out of a lab at the Army's Fort Detrick base in 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.

The idea, once a fringe theory lacking any public evidence that was put forward by some Chinese officials, has become a Chinese government talking point as it attempts to deflect criticism about its possible role in the virus' origins.

On Wednesday, the Chinese embassy in Washington posted the calls for World Health Organization investigations at Fort Detrick and at the University of North Carolina to its website after it said US media had rejected its editorial submissions.

And on Tuesday, China's envoy to the United Nations asked the head of the WHO for an investigation into US labs.

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

The US National Security Council did not respond immediately to requests for comment on the Chinese suggestion that US labs be investigated.

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.

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