US supports Australian call for investigation into origins of coronavirus: Pompeo

Lalit K Jha

Washington, Apr 29 (PTI) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday supported Australia's demand for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak as he pushed China to provide the world access to its virology labs in Wuhan, the city where the virus first emerged.

China has described the demand as 'petty tricks' by Australia, which is seeking a global support from countries like the US, France and Germany. Beijing has accused Australia of taking instructions from the United States.

'Overnight, I saw comments from the Chinese Foreign Ministry talking about a course of activity with respect to Australia who had the temerity to ask for investigation. Who in the world wouldn't want an investigation of how this happened to the world?” Pompeo told reporters at a news conference here.

While the US is currently focused on saving the lives of its people and bringing back its economy on track, Pompeo said there will be ample time to evaluate how to hold accountable those who are responsible for the loss of what is now tens of thousands of American lives and enormous amount of wealth.

'Not only American wealth, but the global economy's devastation as a result of this virus. There will be a time for this. We will get that timing right,” he said.

In an interview to Fox News, Pompeo said that he has “been heartened” to see Australia, other countries joining the United States, demanding an investigation. 'While we know this started in Wuhan, China we don't yet know from where it started, and in spite of our best efforts to get experts on the ground, they continue to try and hide and obfuscate. That’s wrong,” he added.

“It continues to pose a threat to the world, and we all need to get to the bottom of what actually happened here not only for the current instant but to make sure something like this doesn't happen again. There's still many labs operating inside of China today, and the world needs to know that we're not going to see a repeat of this in the days and weeks and months ahead,” he said.

China has slammed US and its other countries for demanding an investigation. 'We advise American politicians to reflect on their own problems and try their best to control the epidemic as soon as possible instead of continuing to play tricks to deflect blame,' a Chinese official said in Beijing.

'This is classic communist disinformation. This is what communists do. The Chinese people were harmed by this too. The Chinese Communist Party, we know, there were journalists that were kicked out, we know that there were doctors that tried to tell this story and instead they were pushed aside, covered up, taken out of the news,” Pompeo said.

'I saw a foreign ministry official this morning on TV trying to change this narrative. We know that this virus started in Wuhan, China. The Chinese Communist Party now has the responsibility to tell the world how this pandemic got out of China and all across the world, causing such global economic devastation,” Pompeo said.

Later, Pompeo told reporters at the State Department that when countries engage in disinformation, it creates risk.

'Chinese Communist Party tells us they want to be our partner, they want to be transparent. We need partners that we can rely on, that when they tell us something, it is accurate and that we don't think they're hiding anything,” he said.

The United States and the world, he said, still haven't gained access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

“We don't know precisely where this virus originated from. There are multiple labs that are continuing to conduct work, we think, continuing on contagious pathogens inside of China today, and we don't know if they are operating at a level of security to prevent this from happening again,” he said.

This is not the first time that a virus come out of China, Pompeo said, adding that there is a continuing obligation on the part of reliable partners to share this information to the world.

“We talk about this in the context of nuclear insurance all the time where countries permit others to come in and see their systems to make sure that the locks and keys are right, that the security levels are right, that the technological capability is right, that the checks are right so that you can prevent an accidental nuclear release. We need the same kinds of processes for biosystems and biolaboratories as well,” he said.

'We would urge every country all of our partners to demand that we get answers for what happened here but also that the world gets the transparency it needs to make sure that those who are conducting scientific research on complex viruses and pathogens are doing so in a way that doesn't create the risk that we get precisely the economic devastation and the enormous loss of life that we've all suffered as a result of this virus that came out of Wuhan, China,” Pompeo said.

The coronavirus has infected more than three million people and claimed over 211,000 lives worldwide. PTI LKJ ZH ZH