The Biden administration will not take a hard line with China about cooperating in an investigation into the origins of COVID-19, the White House’s national security adviser admitted Sunday.
“We are not at this point going to issue threats or ultimatums. What we’re going to do is continue to rally support in the international community,” Jake Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“And if it turns out that China refuses to live up to its international obligations, we will have to consider our responses at that point.”
Instead, Sullivan said, the approach to determine whether the deadly virus began in a Chinese lab would follow “two tracks,” including supporting a World Health Organization-led investigation.
“One track is an intelligence community assessment that President Biden ordered,” he told CNN’s Dana Bash.
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
“The second track is an international investigation led by the World Health Organization, for which President Biden has rallied democratic partners to say there must be access to China, to be able to get the data necessary to understand what happened here.”
But Bash quickly shot back, pointing out that the hands-off approach gives China a lot of leeway.
“Well, this is not a question of time, Dana, first of all we are in the process of using our own capacities, our own capabilities to begin to develop a clearer picture,” Sullivan responded.
Experts from the WHO-China joint team Mi Feng, Liang Wannian, Peter Ben Embarek and Marion Koopmans attend the WHO-China Joint Study Press Conference on February 9, 2021 in Wuhan, China.Zhang Chang/China News Service via Getty Images
“I will repeat what I said before, we’re not going to simply accept China saying no, but we will work between now and when this second phase of the WHO investigation is fully underway to have as strong a consensus in the international community as possible, because it is from that position of strength that we will best be able to deal with China.”
A WHO advisory board member said earlier this month that China continues to stifle any examination that COVID began in the lab. World Health Organization (WHO) advisory board member said Monday.
“The problem is the Chinese have engaged in a massive cover-up that is going on until today involving destroying samples, hiding records, placing a universal gag order on Chinese scientists and imprisoning Chinese citizen journalists asking the most basic questions. That’s what we need to get around,” Jamie Metzl said.
Members of the World Health Organization investigate the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan for the origins of COVID-19 on February 3, 2021.HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images
Sullivan also insisted that Biden did much of the “diplomatic spadework” to move the probe along during his meetings with G-7 members in Britain earlier this month.
He said the president got the “democratic world speaking out with one voice on the issue.”
In its communique following the meetings, the G-7 agreed for a “timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened Phase 2 COVID-19 Origins study including, as recommended by the experts’ report, in China.”
A man enters the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) on June 15, 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland.Sean Gallup/Getty Images
The theory that the coronavirus originated in the lab came to the fore after a recent report revealed that three workers at the Wuhan facility were taken to the hospital in November 2019 with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or seasonal illness.
The first reports of the virus emerged from Wuhan the next month.