US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement on Saturday that Washington had “deep concerns” about the recent findings of a WHO team of inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus in China and demanded more information from Beijing.
The statement came days after the WHO fact-finding mission returned from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic, with no clear finding on the origin of the flu-like pathogen.
The team of experts, who had been in the China for four weeks to probe the origins of the pandemic, announced during a media briefing on Tuesday that the possibility of the virus having leaked from a lab was “extremely unlikely” and did not require further study.
The WHO team also said there had been no indication of the transmission of the new coronavirus in Wuhan before December 2019, when the first official cases of COVID-19 were recorded.
“We have deep concerns about the way in which the early findings of the COVID-19 investigation were communicated and questions about the process used to reach them,” Sullivan said.
“It is imperative that this report be independent, with expert findings free from intervention or alteration by the Chinese government,” he added, calling on China to “make available its data from the earliest days of the outbreak.”
The US national security adviser also expressed in his statement “deep respect” for WHO, which Washington under newly-elected President Joe Biden is rejoining.
The administration of former US President Donald Trump moved to quit WHO last July, claiming that the agency was under China’s sway and had produced an ineffectual virus response.
Responding to Sullivan’s statement, the Chinese Embassy in the United States accused Washington on Saturday of harming multilateral cooperation between the two countries and even damaging WHO in recent years.
The diplomatic mission urged Washington to stop “pointing fingers” at China and other countries that supported the world body during the pandemic.
The Chinese Embassy also welcomed Washington’s decision to reengage with WHO, but called on the new US administration to hold itself to the “highest standards” instead of taking aim at other countries.
Since the outbreak of the epidemic in China in December 2019, the origin of the new coronavirus has been widely discussed online, and conspiracy theories have emerged around it.
The pandemic became a political tool at the hands of the former US president, who routinely called the pathogen “the Wuhan virus.”
Trump and his associates also said there had been evidence that Beijing created the new coronavirus in the medical lab in the Chinese city, even though the US intelligence agencies said they had seen no such evidence.
China has repeatedly floated the theory that the virus was brought to the country through packaging on products such as frozen seafood, a theory the WHO team has not ruled out.
The coronavirus pandemic has so far claimed the lives of more than 2,405,000 people and infected well over 109,111,900 across the world.