April 14. 2024. 5:44

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FBI director says China lab leak likely caused COVID pandemic


FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday (28 February) the agency has assessed that a leak from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, likely caused the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” Wray told Fox News.

His comments follow a Wall Street Journal report on Sunday that the US Energy Department has assessed with low confidence the pandemic resulted from an unintended lab leak in China.

Four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still judge that the pandemic was likely the result of a natural transmission, and two are undecided, the Journal reported.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Monday the US government has not reached a definitive conclusion and consensus on the pandemic’s origins.

President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said on Sunday there were a “variety of views in the intelligence community” on the pandemic’s origins.

“A number of them have said they just don’t have enough information,” Sullivan told CNN.

China’s foreign ministry, asked to comment on the Wall Street Journal report, which was confirmed by other U.S. media, referred to a WHO-China report that pointed toward a natural origin for the pandemic, rather than a lab leak.

“Certain parties should stop rehashing the ‘lab leak’ narrative, stop smearing China and stop politicizing the origins-tracing issue,” foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.

Wray said he couldn’t share many details of the agency’s assessment because they were classified.

He accused the Chinese government of “doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate” efforts by the United States and others to learn more about the pandemic’s origins.

The US ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, speaking by video link at a US Chamber of Commerce event on Monday, said China needed to be “more honest” about what happened three years ago in Wuhan with the origin of the COVID-19 crisis.

‘A little bit Orwellian’

Burns told the Chamber event that it was a difficult moment for US-China relations, with Beijing seeking to deflect blame after the US military this month downed an alleged Chinese spy balloon that drifted across the continental United States.

US-China tensions have been especially high of late, over China’s increasingly aggressive military posture toward Taiwan, talk that China may be supporting Russia’s war against Ukraine, and the US’s shooting down on 4 February a Chinese balloon suspected of spying over US territory.

Beijing has denied that the balloon was a government spy vessel.

“We’re now in this surreal moment where the Chinese, who I think lost the debate over the balloon globally, lost influence and credibility around the world because of what they’ve done – they’re now blaming this on us,” Burns said.

“It’s a little bit Orwellian. And it’s a little bit frustrating, because I think everybody knows the truth here.”