China is facing mounting international pressure and isolation unless Beijing cooperates with efforts to uncover the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, the White House said Monday.
“We’re going to work together to exercise the necessary pressure on China to be a participant and to provide transparent data and access in this case,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
Ms. Psaki said the U.S. government has concerns about China‘s refusal to cooperate with an ongoing probe into the virus origin. “The lack of transparency is certainly one of them,” she said, adding that “the global community has taken notice” of the stonewalling.
Jake Sullivan, White House national security adviser, said Sunday China will be isolated by the international community unless the government cooperates with the virus origin probe. Leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations endorsed last week called on China to permit an investigation on its territory into how the pandemic began.
Mr. Sullivan said Beijing’s leaders faced “a stark choice: Either they will allow, in a responsible way, investigators in to do the real work of figuring out where this came from, or they will face isolation in the international community.”
The Biden administration is working with allies and partners “to continue pressing on every front until we get to the bottom of how this virus came into the world and who has accountability for that,” Mr. Sullivan said.
A joint Chinese government-World Health Organization probe into the virus origin earlier this year was unable to determine the cause of the disease outbreak. However, the joint investigation recommended no further inquiry into the theory that the virus escaped from a Wuhan research laboratory, a conclusion that was challenged by the WHO director-general who called for further inquiry.
The WHO is now engaged in a phase 2 investigation of the virus origin, but the Chinese government announced that it would not take part in any further investigation on Chinese soil.
President Biden recently ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to conduct a three-month inquiry into the virus origin after spy agencies were divided in their views over whether the virus began naturally or perhaps through a leak from a major virus laboratory located in Wuhan, near the emergence of the pandemic.
China‘s government allowed WHO investigators to visit the Wuhan Institute of Virology for three hours earlier this year. But so far Beijing has not provided details of potentially dangerous “gain-of-function” research on bat coronaviruses that was done at the laboratory.
Chinese officials have denied the virus leaked from the laboratory.
However, a second theory that the virus emerged naturally from a so-called zoonotic transfer from a bat to an intermediate animal host and then to humans also has not been confirmed.
According to the WHO, Chinese authorities surveyed more than 80,000 animals in China and found no evidence of the coronavirus behind the pandemic, known as SARS-Cov-2 in any animals.
Sen. Tom Cotton, an early proponent of the lab-leak theory of the virus origin, said on Monday Chinese President Xi Jinping is not likely to respond to U.S.-led pressure.
“I don’t think Xi Jinping is quaking in his boots that Joe Biden’s not going to invite him to coffee at the next [Group of 20 summit], Mr. Cotton told Fox News Channel.
“First off, China is not going to cooperate. They’re not going to open those labs and let American scientists and researchers go in,” Mr. Cotton said.
The Arkansas Republican said there is more than enough evidence now to hold China accountable for the pandemic.
“From the very beginning, I noted that this virus very well could have originated in those labs,” he said. “It didn’t come from a remote mountain village next to a cave full of bats. It came from a city larger than New York just a few blocks down the street from the lab where they research these viruses. A lab that’s run by a woman literally nicknamed the ‘Bat Lady,’” he said.
Mr. Cotton said the administration should be imposing costs on China, such as ending most-favored-nation trade status, and blocking entry visas to Chinese Communist Party officials and their relatives.
“We can do a lot to hold China accountable and we’re not doing nearly enough,” he said.