(Provides quotes, background, bylines)
By Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom
WASHINGTON/BEIJING, Feb 27 (Reuters) – China should be extra trustworthy in regards to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. ambassador to China mentioned on Monday, after reviews that the U.S. Power Division concluded the pandemic seemingly arose from a Chinese language laboratory leak.
Nicholas Burns, talking by video hyperlink at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce occasion, mentioned it was essential to push China to take a extra lively position within the World Well being Group (WHO) if the U.N. well being company was to be strengthened.
China additionally wanted to “be extra trustworthy about what occurred three years in the past in Wuhan with the origin of the COVID-19 disaster,” Burns mentioned, referring to the central Chinese language metropolis the place the primary human instances had been reported in December 2019.
The Wall Avenue Journal first reported on Sunday that the U.S. Power Division had concluded the pandemic seemingly arose from a Chinese language laboratory leak, an evaluation Beijing denies.
The division made its judgment with “low confidence” in a labeled intelligence report lately supplied to the White Home and key members of Congress, the Journal mentioned, citing individuals who had learn the intelligence report.
4 different U.S. businesses, together with a nationwide intelligence panel, nonetheless decide that COVID-19 was seemingly the results of pure transmission, whereas two are undecided, the Journal reported.
The Power Division didn’t reply to a request for remark.
President Joe Biden’s nationwide safety adviser, Jake Sullivan, mentioned on Sunday there have been a “number of views within the intelligence group” on the pandemic’s origins.
“Numerous them have mentioned they simply haven’t got sufficient info,” Sullivan advised CNN.
Requested to touch upon the report, which was confirmed by different U.S. media, China’s overseas ministry referred to a WHO-China report that pointed towards a pure origin for the pandemic, seemingly from bats, slightly than a lab leak.
“Sure events ought to cease rehashing the ‘lab leak’ narrative, cease smearing China and cease politicizing the origins-tracing challenge,” overseas ministry spokesperson Mao Ning mentioned.
‘A LITTLE BIT ORWELLIAN’
Burns advised the Chamber occasion that it was a tough second for U.S.-China relations, with Beijing in search of to deflect blame after the U.S. navy this month downed an alleged Chinese language spy balloon that drifted throughout the continental United States.
“We’re now on this surreal second the place the Chinese language, who I believe misplaced the controversy over the balloon globally, misplaced affect and credibility all over the world due to what they’ve performed – they’re now blaming this on us,” Burns mentioned.
“It is a little bit bit Orwellian. And it is a little bit bit irritating, as a result of I believe all people is aware of the reality right here.”
China reacted angrily when the U.S. navy downed the balloon on Feb. 4, saying it was for monitoring climate circumstances and had blown off track.
Burns added that it was the duty of america to take care of its navy energy “in and round Taiwan” to make sure the self-governed island claimed by Beijing has the power to discourage any form of “offensive motion” by China.
“It is also … our duty to impress the remainder of the world to ensure that the Chinese language can not get away with coercion or intimidation in opposition to Taiwan itself,” he mentioned. (Reporting by Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom in Washington and the Beijing newsroom; Enhancing by Don Durfee and Alistair Bell)