The US envoy to China has said Beijing needs to be “more honest” about the origins of the Covid-19 virus for the two nations to be able to work together, amidst reports that the pandemic likely started from a laboratory leak in Wuhan.
Speaking at a US Chamber of Commerce event on Monday, US ambassador to China Nicholas Burns said the country needs to “be more honest about what happened three years ago in Wuhan with the origin of the Covid-19 crisis”.
The call for honesty comes as tensions between the US and China continued to escalate after the US shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon earlier this month.
Mr Burns added that the Chinese surveillance balloon and Beijing’s position on the war in Ukraine are “two of the most important issues that we’re dealing with right now”.
Mr Burns was discussing a range of issues including strengthening the World Health Organisation, political polarisation in the US and how it impacts America’s standing and ability to tackle geopolitical challenges.
The debate over the origins of Covid-19 was revived after the US Department of Energy reportedly found in an unreleased classified intelligence report with “low confidence” that the virus could have started from a laboratory leak in Wuhan.
A low confidence assessment means that the claim is made with limited information, and therefore, the level of certainty is relatively low.
There is no official confirmation of the DOE findings, reported by the Wall Street Journal last week, but the department formerly said it was undecided on how the virus began. Other US agencies have drawn differing conclusions, with varying degrees of confidence in their findings.
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said there was still no firm finding either way.
China’s foreign ministry has rejected the lab leak theory, calling on US investigators to “stop smearing China and stop politicising origins-tracing”.