China has referred to the United States’ efforts to trace the origin of the coronavirus as a “politicisation”, demanding a US military laboratory be investigated, shortly before the release of a US intelligence community report on the virus.
The report which was due to be completed by a Tuesday deadline, 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.
According to the White House Press Secretary, it would take a few days to prepare an unclassified version for public release.
China has responded by saying that a laboratory leak was highly unlikely and has ridiculed the theory that coronavirus escaped from a lab in the city of Wuhan, where COVID-19 infections emerged in late 2019, setting off the pandemic.
Fu Cong, the director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ arms control department has described the US effort as “scapegoating”.
“Scapegoating China cannot whitewash the US. 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.
China has instead suggested that the virus slipped out of a lab in Fort Detrick, Maryland, in 2019.
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.
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.