President Joe Biden said Friday that China was withholding “critical information” on the origins of Covid-19 after the US intelligence community said it did not believe the virus was a bioweapon — but remained split on whether it escaped from a lab.
The United States, however, does not believe Chinese officials had foreknowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak of the pandemic that has now claimed 4.5 million lives, according to an unclassified summary of an eagerly awaited intelligence report.
Biden said in a statement,”Critical information about the origins of this pandemic exists in the People’s Republic of China(PRC), yet from the beginning, government officials in China have worked to prevent international investigators and members of the global public health community from accessing it.”
“To this day, the PRC continues to reject calls for transparency and withhold information, even as the toll of this pandemic continues to rise.”
“We needed this information rapidly, from the PRC, while the pandemic was still new. Since taking office, my administration has renewed U.S. leadership in the World Health Organization and rallied allies and partners to renew focus on this critical question. The world deserves answers, and I will not rest until we get them. Responsible nations do not shirk these kinds of responsibilities to the rest of the world. Pandemics do not respect international borders, and we all must better understand how COVID-19 came to be in order to prevent further pandemics.”
“The United States will continue working with like-minded partners around the world to press the PRC to fully share information and to cooperate with the World Health Organization’s Phase II evidence-based, expert-led determination into the origins of COVID-19 – including by providing access to all relevant data and evidence. We will also continue to press the PRC to adhere to scientific norms and standards, including sharing information and data from the earliest days of the pandemic, protocols related to biosafety, and information from animal populations. We must have a full and transparent accounting of this global tragedy. Nothing less is acceptable,” Joe Biden further said in the statement.
Biden’s statement came shortly after the release of an unclassified summary of the US intelligence community’s assessment on the novel coronavirus origins that was largely indeterminate apart from the determination that it was likely not a bioweapon.
US Intelligence Community said that the cooperation of China will be needed to reach a conclusive assessment on the origins of COVID-19.
“China’s cooperation most likely would be needed to reach a conclusive assessment of the origins of COVID-19. Beijing, however, continues to hinder the global investigation, resist sharing information and blame other countries, including the United States,” the US Intelligence Community said in its unclassified summary of assessment on the novel coronavirus origins.
The intelligence community and global scientists lack clinical samples or epidemiological data from the earliest Covid-19 cases, it added.
Biden said the United States would continue to work with allies to press Beijing to share more information and cooperate with the World Health Organization.
“We must have a full and transparent accounting of this global tragedy. Nothing less is acceptable,” he said.
The office of the director of national intelligence said it was reviewing de-classifying parts of the report in the near future, in light of the historic nature of the pandemic and importance of informing the public, all the while protecting its sources and methods.
*With inputs from agencies
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