Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the World Health Organization’s first study on the coronavirus pandemic’s origins “highly deficient” and said G-7 leaders will insist China cooperate with a second WHO study.
“The WHO, you’re right, the first study they put out was highly deficient,” Blinken told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “The leaders of the G-7 have come together insisting that China cooperate with the so-called phase two study by the WHO to really get to the bottom of what happened. But that’s not enough.
“We need to get to the bottom of what happened. We need accountability, but we also need to understand what happened, why it happened, how it happened, if we’re going to be able to put in place the necessary measures to prevent it from happening again, or at least be in a better place to mitigate the next pandemic if we can’t fully prevent one,” Blinken continued.
High-ranking Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi, head of Beijing’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission, told Blinken on Friday that the Wuhan lab leak theory is an “absurd story,” according to Chinese state media.
Security personnel gather near the entrance of the Wuhan Institute of Virology during a visit by the World Health Organization team in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) (AP)
President Biden has tasked the intelligence community with getting to the bottom of the coronavirus pandemic’s origin.
“He ordered back in March that we try to determine for ourselves the origins of COVID-19,” Blinken said. “We came up with two plausible explanations: One is the so-called natural occurrence; … the other is a lab leak. but we couldn’t determine with any degree of certainty which one it was.”
In May, Biden issued a public statement that said the U.S. intelligence community has “coalesced around two likely scenarios” for the origins of the pandemic, “including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident,” and asked for “additional follow-up.”
The president asked the intelligence community to “redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days,” Biden said.
It’s unclear what action the U.S. would take depending on the results of the investigation.
“Would the president seek to punish China?” Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre in May.
“We’re not going to go there just yet,” Jean-Pierre said. “We have to go through the 90-day review. And once we have the 90-day review, will we be able to reassess.”
Doocy pressed again: “If another nation either was responsible or knew more than they were letting on … what would the president do?”
“I’m just not going to pre-judge. I’m not going to make a statement until … we know what happens after this 90-day review,” Jean-Pierre said.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.