World

China accuses Mike Pompeo of repeated lies over coronavirus origin

China said on Thursday it supports the World Health Organization (WHO) in trying to pinpoint the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and accused U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of telling one lie after another in his attacks on Beijing.

Beijing spokesperson also raises the possibility the novel coronavirus didn't originate in China

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the country would co-operate with any efforts by the World Health Organization to study the origin of the novel coronavirus. (Mark Schiefelbein/The Associated Press)

China said on Thursday it supports the World Health Organization in trying to pinpoint the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and accused U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of telling one lie after another in his attacks on Beijing.

Pompeo accused China of withholding virus samples he said were needed for global vaccine research, and demanded transparency.

Most experts believe COVID-19 originated in a market selling wildlife and jumped from animals to people, but Pompeo and U.S. President Donald Trump have said there is evidence it came from a laboratory, without elaborating.

U.S. intelligence agencies said last week that there was no evidence that the virus was man-made or genetically modified, but did not rule out an accident or leak scenario, with a world-renowned infectious disease lab located some 12 kilometres from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.

Pompeo also accused the WHO of being too slow to respond to the disease and said it "needs to still demand that there be an investigation" in China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, addressing reporters in Beijing on Thursday, said China supported WHO efforts to investigate the origin of the pandemic.

"We are always open to co-operate with the WHO on matters, including on the question of origin," she said.

But she repeated a timeline of signals from France, Sweden and the U.S. itself that the virus may not have emerged in China.

"While scientists have not come to a conclusion, why is Secretary Pompeo drawing the hasty conclusion that the virus came from a Wuhan lab? Where is his proof? Show us the proof. If he cannot show any evidence, then he may still be in the process of making up this evidence."

Trump calls virus an 'attack'

The WHO has urged countries to investigate any early suspicious cases and called earlier comments about a possible laboratory source by Pompeo "speculative."

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused China of failing to prevent 'hundreds of thousands of deaths.' (Kevin Lamarque/Pool Photo via AP)

Hua said Pompeo had contradicted himself in interviews about the virus.

"The reason why he contradicts himself is because he is always making up a lie to cover up another lie," she said. "This is an open secret."

At a White House event on Wednesday, Trump, who is seeking re-election in November, framed the virus as the worst "attack" the United States had ever experienced, and blamed China for not stopping it.

"This is worse than Pearl Harbor. This is worse than the World Trade Center," Trump said. "And it should have never happened. It could have been stopped at the source. It could have been stopped in China. It should have been stopped right at the source, and it wasn't."

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the U.S. was experiencing 'the worst attack we've ever had on our country' due to the pandemic. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in 1941 killed more than 2,400 people, while the airliner attacks in the U.S. at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, killed nearly 3,000.

COVID-19 has killed more than 264,000 people worldwide, including more than 74,000 in the United States, making it the worst-affected Western country, according to pandemic tracking by Johns Hopkins University.

Trump has accused the WHO of being "China-centric" and acting too slowly to fight the disease, and threatened to withdraw funds. Many scientists have said now is the time to increase funding and global cooperation to find a vaccine.

Earlier on Wednesday, Pompeo alleged China "could have prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. China could have spared the world descent into global economic malaise.

"China is still refusing to share the information we need to keep people safe," he said at a State Department briefing.

LISTEN | Dr. Brian Goldman separates fact from fiction in the origin of the novel coronavirus: 

Pompeo did not address Trump's well-documented downplaying of the virus or the administration's halting response in February and early March, several weeks after WHO alerted the public that human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus was real.

More than a quarter-million dead

COVID-19 has killed more than 264,000 people worldwide, including more than 73,000 in the United States, making it the worst-affected Western country, according to pandemic tracking by Johns Hopkins University.

Hua said the only enemy was the virus.

"Because that is the common enemy of all of humanity... Faced with this mankind battle against the virus, China should be [a] U.S. comrade in arms, not enemy."

WATCH l WHO has made 3 trips to China to probe origins:

The public health importance of this is critical,' said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's lead scientist on COVID-19. WHO plans a further mission to China to pinpoint the source of the virus.   2:00

She also said that Chinese local governments and companies had donated 9.6 million masks, 500,000 test kits, 305,000 pairs of gloves and 133,500 pairs of goggles to 55 cities in 30 U.S. states as of Tuesday.

Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of Trump's Coronavirus Task Force, said in an interview published on Monday the best evidence showed the virus was not made in a lab, but appeared to have "evolved in nature and then jumped species."

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