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Friday, Jun 25, 2021

China lashes out at yet another US intelligence investigation into virus origin

China lashes out at yet another US intelligence investigation into virus origin

China is sensitive to allegations that it could have done more to stop the spread of a pandemic.

China on Thursday pointed out at the "dark history" of the US intelligence services, after President Joe Biden commissioned another investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

Washington is reviewing its diplomatic position with China on issues such as trade, technology and human rights, while intensifying efforts to create with its Western partners a diplomatic front against China.

On Wednesday, President Biden reopened the wounds between the two powers by ordering US intelligence agencies to inform him within 90 days of whether Covid-19 first emerged in China from an animal source or from a laboratory accident.

The theory of a laboratory leak, initially put forward by Biden's predecessor Donald Trump, and later dismissed as "highly unlikely" by a World Health Organization (WHO) mission to China, resurfaced in the last days, driven by Washington.

China is highly sensitive to allegations that it could have done more to stop the spread of a pandemic that has killed more than 3.5 million people and crippled economies around the world since it emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Beijing rejects the theory that the virus may have emerged from a virology laboratory in Wuhan and accuses the United States of peddling "conspiracies" and politicizing the pandemic.

The "motives and purposes of the Biden administration are clear," Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said Thursday, rejecting the need for a new investigation into the pandemic.

"The world has long known the dark history of US intelligence services," he said, referring to the baseless US allegations of weapons of mass destruction that justified its invasion of Iraq.

Going back to the theory of a laboratory leak is disrespectful to science and also an alteration in the global fight against the pandemic, Zhao said.

Citing a report from US intelligence services, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that three people from the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized with a seasonal illness in November 2019, a month before Beijing reported an increase in pneumonia cases.

The natural origin hypothesis – supported as the most likely by the WHO expert team that visited – holds that the virus arose in bats and then passed to humans, likely through an intermediary species.

This theory was widely accepted early in the pandemic, but over time scientists have not found a virus in bats or other animals that matches the genetic signature of SARS-CoV-2.

Commercial negotiations

China wants to put aside the search for the origin of the pandemic, which is being promoted by Western countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom, and wants to focus on world's economic recovery after managing to control the virus within countries' borders.

In this sense, the Commerce Ministry on Thursday welcomed the talks with Washington that are part of an agreement to end the trade war.

The two countries signed the so-called "phase 1" agreement in January 2020, in which Beijing pledged to increase its purchases of US products and services by at least $200 billion during 2020 and 2021.

Officially the pandemic has been attributed to more than 3.5 million deaths in the world, but the way the data has been collected, it has raised doubts if all the deaths are in fact due to the virus.

The situation is uneven according to the regions.

In Latin America, which adds more than a million deaths and 32.3 million infections, Uruguay on Wednesday exceeded 4,000 deaths from covid-19 and Argentina, which is going through the worst moment of the pandemic with more than 75,500 deaths, received more of a million doses of AstraZeneca and Sputnik V.

For their part, in Australia, authorities announced Thursday that five million residents of Melbourne, the country's second city, and its region will be confined to contain an outbreak.
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