‘Open and transparent’ on COVID origins: Beijing
Washington: FBI Director Christopher Wray has said 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.
China’s foreign ministry, asked to comment on the Wall Street Journal report, which was confirmed by other US media, referred to a WHO-China report that pointed toward a natural origin for the pandemic, rather than a lab leak.
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.
Meanwhile, China said it has been “open and transparent” in the search for the origins of Covid-19, after questions about how the pandemic began received new attention.
Most recently, the U.S. Department of Energy assessed with “low confidence” that the pandemic that was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 began with the leak of a virus from a lab. The report hasn’t been made public.
China had “shared the most data and research results on virus tracing and made important contributions to global virus tracing research,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning Mao told reporters at a daily briefing.
“Politicizing the issue of virus tracing will not smear China but will only damage the U.S.’s own credibility,” Mao said, in response to complaints from U.S. officials and members of Congress that China has not been entirely cooperative.
Her comments came amid continuing questions about how the virus that has killed more than 6.8 million people worldwide first emerged.
Others in the U.S. intelligence community disagree with the U.S. Energy Department assessment of the lab leak, citing differing opinions within the government. “There is just not an intelligence community consensus,” John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said Monday.
The DOE conclusion was first reported over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal, which said the classified report was based on new intelligence and noted in an update to a 2021 document. The DOE oversees a national network of labs in the U.S.
White House officials on Monday declined to confirm press reports about the assessment.
In 2021, officials released an intelligence report summary that said four members of the U.S. intelligence community believed with low confidence that the virus was first transmitted from an animal to a human, and a fifth believed with moderate confidence that the first human infection was linked to a lab.