US President Donald Trump appeared to be contradictory to his intelligence agencies, by noting that he had found evidence to show the origins of the Coronavirus to a Chinese laboratory.
Earlier, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said that he was still investigating how the virus could start.
But the office said Covid 19 is “not man-made or genetically modified.”
China rejected the theory of virus synthesis in the laboratory and criticized the United States for dealing with the Covid 19 crisis.
Since it appeared in China last year, the virus has killed more than 230,000 people worldwide, including 63,000 in the United States.
At least 3.2 million people worldwide, including one million Americans, have been infected since the outbreak began, from the Chinese city of Wuhan.
What did Trump say?
A journalist asked President Trump at the White House on Thursday: “Did you see anything at this point that gives you a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Virus Institute is the origin of this virus?”
The president replied, “Yes, yes, I have,” without specifying what is the source of his confidence in this conclusion. He added: “And I think the WHO should be ashamed of itself because it has become like a PR agency for China.”
When he was later asked to clarify his comment, he said: “I cannot tell you that. I am not allowed to tell you that.”
He told reporters: “Whether they (the Chinese) made a mistake, or did it start as a mistake and then they made another mistake, or someone did it deliberately? I do not understand how people from Wuhan were allowed to enter the rest of China, but were even allowed to travel to the rest of the world. This is bad. , Which is a difficult question for them to answer. ”
The New York Times reported Thursday that senior White House officials have asked the US intelligence services to conduct an investigation to determine whether the virus came from the Wuhan research lab.
Anonymous officials told NBC News that intelligence agencies were also tasked with determining whether China and the World Health Organization had withheld information about the virus early.
What did the intelligence say?
In a rare public statement, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees US intelligence agencies, said Thursday that it agreed with the “broad scientific consensus” on Covid 19’s natural origins.
“The intelligence services will continue to examine the information very carefully to determine whether the outbreak has started through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident in a laboratory in Wuhan,” he added.
This was the first clear response from US intelligence to refute conspiracy theories alike from the United States and China, which says the virus is a biological weapon.
What is Wuhan Laboratory?
Founded in the 1950s, the Wuhan Virus Institute houses China’s first level 4 biosafety laboratory.
These laboratories deal with the most dangerous pathogens for which few vaccines or treatments are available. One of the areas being studied by the Wuhan facility is corona viruses in bats and their transmission potential.
This laboratory was designed and built with French assistance at a cost of $ 44 million, and it opened in 2015. Many of its employees have been trained in a similar facility in Lyon, France.
It is a source of pride for China to have a fourth-level biosafety laboratory with links to similar laboratories worldwide.
What are Trump’s accusations against China?
Trump recently escalated his war of words with China over the epidemic after a period that officials within the US President’s administration described as a truce with Beijing.
Last Wednesday, Trump indicated that China wanted him to lose his re-election bid in November.
He had previously accused Chinese officials of covering up the virus early, and said they could have prevented the disease from spreading.
He also criticized the World Health Organization and withdrew US funding for the world body.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has accused the Trump administration of trying to divert attention from its own problems of tackling the crisis.
A ministry spokesman has also repeatedly promoted the idea that Covid 19 may have originated in the United States, an idea that is not backed by any evidence.
According to the Washington Post, the Trump administration is looking at ways to financially punish China. Press leaks reported on discussions in the administration that it included discussing allowing the US government to sue China for damages or canceling debt obligations.
How Trump clashed with US intelligence before?
Last January, Trump described US intelligence agencies as “naive” in its stance toward Iran and rejected its assessment of the threat posed by North Korea.
His desire to attack intelligence assessments dates back to his election as president in 2016, when he questioned an assessment that said Russia had interfered in the electoral process.
He continued to defend Russia against the accusation that it launched a campaign of cyberattacks and published fake news stories to influence the vote in his favor, despite the fact that the US accusations were directed against Russian citizens.
The right moment for this battle
Jonathan Marcus analysis
BBC defense correspondent
President Trump’s attack on China is largely related to domestic politics and his campaign for re-election, but it portends the emergence of a growing Cold War mentality toward Beijing, which may dominate diplomacy in the months and years to come.
To be sure, there is much to be criticized in China’s handling of the early stages of the Covid 19 outbreak, and it has shamelessly sought to make political capital out of the crisis. Even Trump’s opponent, Democrat Joe Biden, is stepping up criticism of Beijing. But many analysts are wondering if this is the right moment to fight this battle.
There is no doubt that the rise of China has not dissipated, as many hope in the West. In its region, it is a great military power, and the United States peer the other superpower.
China’s technological capabilities in strategic areas such as 5G on the Internet and artificial intelligence are impressive.
Its broader influence is also enhanced by central efforts to develop trade relations, financial relations, etc., which means that China is a force to be reckoned with, with an increasing ability to influence the rules of the international game.
Facing Beijing’s rising role will be the main challenge to the next US president’s foreign policy, who will also try to find ways to work with China on issues such as climate change.