China officials said Monday that “certain parties” should stop politicizing the origins of COVID after the U.S. Department of Energy assessed the virus likely leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
During a press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said that “origins-tracing” of the virus should be referred back to a March 2021 report published by China and World Health Organization officials, which concluded with an “extremely unlikely” verdict about the lab leak theory.
“Certain parties should stop rehashing the ‘lab leak’ narrative, stop smearing China and stop politicizing origins-tracing,” Ning said after defending the joint WHO-China report she claimed was received by the international community.
U.S. Energy Department officials revised a previous document that judged with “low confidence” that the virus had leaked from a Chinese laboratory.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that new classified intelligence recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress showed Energy Department officials shifted its assessment of the pandemic’s origins in an updated 2021 report by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines’s office.
The updated classified report also affirms the view that COVID did not stem from a biological weapons program. A lack of a definitive animal source has led researchers and U.S. officials to suspect a leak from Wuhan’s assemblage of laboratories, The Wall Street Journal noted.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Monday said “regardless of what the source is” of COVID that “scientific research can still occur, needs to occur, in a safe and secure manner.”
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan did not confirm on deny the report to CNN, citing a directive from President Joe Biden to investigate the origins of the pandemic.
“President Biden specifically requested that the national labs, which are part of the Energy Department, be brought into this assessment because he wants to put every tool at use to be able to figure out what happened here,” Sullivan said, adding the intelligence community holds a variety of views.
“A number of them have said they just don’t have enough information,” he said.
President Biden ordered a 90-day U.S. intelligence review into the virus origin in 2021, which reported that officials in his administration found the lab leak theory as credible as the natural emergence theory. Following the inquiry, Biden criticized China’s transparency and pledged a further investigation.
A spokesperson from Energy Department did not disclose details of the report but told the Journal it “continues to support the thorough, careful, and objective work of our intelligence professionals in investigating the origins of COVID-19, as the President directed.”
The National Intelligence Council and four agencies, which the Journal says officials refuse to identify, still believe with “low confidence” in the natural emergence theory. FBI officials assessed in 2021 with “moderate confidence” that the pandemic likely began with a lab leak. The Central Intelligence Agency and two other agencies reportedly still have not made a determination.
United Nation health agency officials only referred to the 2021 WHO-China report, which Newsweek reported Beijing officials “appointed half the researchers on the mission, restricted the team’s access to critical data, and blocked WHO attempts to conduct a phase-two study that included a review of Wuhan’s surroundings.”
China officials have repeatedly denied the blame, fending off assertions from various people, including former President Donald Trump. But a lack of cooperation from China led to the WHO’s investigation into COVID’s origins hitting a snag at a key juncture.
According to the John Hopkins University and Medicine data, more than 6.8 million people diagnosed with COVID have died since the earliest cases were reported in Wuhan in late December 2019.
Daniel Chaitin contributed to this report.