US president Joe Biden has lashed out at China for withholding “critical information” on the origins of coronavirus as a multi-agency investigation into the root of the deadly pandemic proved inconclusive.
In a spiky statement released after a three-month inquiry, Mr Biden said that China had obstructed efforts to investigate the virus “from the beginning”.
“Responsible nations do not shirk these kinds of responsibilities to the rest of the world,” he added.
US intelligence agencies remain divided on the origins of the virus, but believe China’s leaders did not know about it before the start of the global pandemic, according to results released on Friday.
An unclassified summary disclosed that four intelligence agencies say with “low confidence” that the virus was initially transmitted from an animal to a human.
A fifth intelligence agency believes with “moderate confidence” that the first human infection was linked to a lab.
Analysts do not believe the virus was developed as a bioweapon.
On Friday, the Chinese Embassy in Washington said the report on the origins of COVID-19 “is not scientifically credible” and wrongly claims China is hindering a global investigation of the pandemic.
The cause of coronavirus, which has killed 4.6 million people worldwide, remains an urgent public health and security concern as new variants continue to spread.
The scientific consensus remains that the virus most likely migrated from animals in what is known as a zoonotic transmission.
But other, more sinister theories, accuse China of developing the virus in a lab and it leaking out – either by accident or deliberately.
“The world deserves answers, and I will not rest until we get them,” said Mr Biden on Friday night.
“We must have a full and transparent accounting of this global tragedy. Nothing less is acceptable.
“We will do everything we can to trace the roots of this outbreak that has caused so much pain and death around the world, so that we can take every necessary precaution to prevent it from happening again.”
The 90-day investigation was ordered in May, to look into “two likely scenarios”: an animal-to-human transmission or a lab leak.
In conducting the review, intelligence agencies consulted with allied nations and experts outside of government.
An epidemiologist was brought into the National Intelligence Council, a group of senior experts that consults the head of the intelligence community.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not identify which of the agencies supported either hypothesis.
It was noted that a lack of clinical samples and data from the earliest cases of COVID-19 made the investigation more difficult and Beijing’s cooperation would most likely be needed to make further progress.
“To this day, the PRC continues to reject calls for transparency and withhold information, even as the toll of this pandemic continues to rise,” said Mr Biden.
China’s foreign ministry attacked the US investigation ahead of the report’s release.
Fu Cong, a foreign ministry director general, said at a briefing for foreign journalists that “scapegoating China cannot whitewash the US”.
“If they want to baselessly accuse China, they better be prepared to accept the counterattack from China,” he said.
Source: Jamie Johnson – The Telegraph