FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a press briefing at the State Department in Washington, U.S., April 22, 2020. Nicholas Kamm/Pool via REUTERS
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the United States remains worried about laboratories in China and the world needs to get to the bottom of how the novel coronavirus began there.
The United States and China have traded insults and accusations during the deadly coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 200,000 people around the world and brought the global economy to a crawl.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on April 15 that his government was investigating whether the coronavirus pandemic originated in a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus emerged. Those claims have no basis in fact, the head of the lab told Reuters on Tuesday.[nL3N2CG18V]
“I can tell you there were real concerns about the labs inside of China,” Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News. “I’m still concerned that the Chinese Communist Party is not telling us about all of what’s taking place in all of the labs.”
A Washington Post opinion column this month said the U.S. State Department in 2018 warned in diplomatic cables about safety and management weaknesses at a Wuhan laboratory.
Pompeo said Chinese authorities are continuing to withhold information about the virus and will not allow U.S. experts access.
“In spite of our best efforts to get experts on the ground, they continue to try and hide and obfuscate. That’s wrong, it continues to pose a threat to the world and we all need to get to the bottom of what actually happened here,” he told Fox.
Most scientists now say the new coronavirus originated in wildlife, with bats and pangolins identified as possible host species.
Yuan Zhiming, a director at the Wuhan Institute of Virology also rejected theories that the lab had accidentally released a coronavirus it had harvested from bats for research purposes.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis