During an appearance on CNN‘s State of the Union, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said pressuring Beijing to allow an independent probe on whether COVID-19 – which has infected over 178 million people and killed around 3.8 million people – originated in a lab in Wuhan isn’t something Biden’s government will take immediate action on.
He added that the Biden administration is working on what he calls “two tracks” to determine where SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, came from. These so-called tracks include an independent investigation by the U.S. intelligence community, which President Joe Biden ordered with a 90-day deadline, and an international investigation led by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The time to put more pressure on China will only come after an “international consensus” is met. The political advisor also said the administration would continue to seek support in the international community, instead of directly confronting Beijing.
When pressed on what the Biden administration would do if China’s communist government refuses to allow an investigation, Sullivan said that the U.S. will then look at other options together with its allies and partners.
“We are in the process of using our own capacities, our own capabilities to begin to develop a clearer picture,” said Sullivan. “And then, secondly, in order to build the kind of international consensus around this issue that will be required to put additional pressure on China, that takes diplomatic spadework.”
He added that while the U.S. isn’t simply going to accept China’s refusal, the administration is looking to build a “[strong] consensus in the international community” between now and the start of the WHO-led investigation.
“Because it is from that position of strength that we will best be able to deal with China,” he said.
Lab leak theory gaining ground
The Biden administration’s move comes on the heels of wider recognition that SARS-CoV-2 might have been manipulated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). To note, former President Donald Trump had already raised the possibility of SARS-CoV-2 being released intentionally from the WIV in Wuhan as early as last April. In response, the Chinese government dismissed Trump’s theories as fabricated and unfounded. (Related: Former CDC head believes coronavirus “escaped” from Wuhan lab.)
In an interview on April 30, Trump accused the WHO of being Beijing’s public relations agency.
“I think that the World Health Organization should be ashamed of themselves because they’re like the public relations agency for China,” added Trump.
He also said that while China is making an effort to be “somewhat transparent” in its handling of COVID-19, people will find out the truth on whether the Wuhan lab leak that created the pandemic was intentional or not.
“It’s a terrible thing that happened. Whether they made a mistake or whether it started off as a mistake and then they made another one or did somebody do something on purpose.”
The earliest reports of COVID-19 were in late 2019 when health authorities in Wuhan linked dozens of cases of “pneumonia of unknown cause” to a local wet market. More than a year after the outbreak, the virus’s origins are still unknown, and the possibility that it leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan is gaining traction.
In a June 13 interview with CBS, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Beijing must cooperate with the WHO, especially when in investigations into the origins of SARS-CoV-2. In fact, the communist government’s refusal to cooperate, especially in the initial stages of the pandemic, was the reason for the WHO’s failed initial report, which he said had “real problems with it.”
It’s worth noting the WHO initial report was prepared by members with ties to Beijing. In addition, the Chinese government refused to hand over raw data on early COVID-19 cases to the investigators.
Unsurprisingly, the WHO report stuck to Beijing’s narrative on the virus’s origin, saying that the possibility of a lab leak was “extremely unlikely.”
In response to Sullivan’s remarks, state-owned Global Times said that the national security advisor’s gestures were similar to that of a bully in elementary school. In an editorial, they doubled down on their stance to reject any investigation on the origins of COVID-19, then proceeded to provoke the United States.
“The arrogant U.S. ruling elites should curtail their arrogance,” they wrote. “Washington needs to have more sense of shame and have a clearer estimation of itself.”
Learn more about the origins of COVID-19 at Pandemic.news.