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White House National-Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. would not immediately issue “threats” to China regarding an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.
Host Dana Bash asked Sullivan whether the U.S. would “take action to increase the pressure” on China if that country continues to bar access to investigators. Bash noted that “we still don’t know whether the coronavirus developed naturally or came from a lab in Wuhan.”
Natl. Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says the US is working with the international community to investigate the origins of Covid-19, despite China stonewalling.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) June 20, 2021
Sullivan said the Biden administration is working on the issue on “two tracks,” first by working on an intelligence-community assessment of the origins of the pandemic, and the second through an international investigation led by the World Health Organization.
“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,” Sullivan said. “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. 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.”
In similar comments to Fox News, Sullivan said China faced the threat of “isolation in the international community” if it refuses to cooperate with a probe into the pandemic’s origins.
The Biden administration’s insistence on working with the WHO comes after the organization faced criticism for apparent deference to China during the early days of the outbreak. Former CDC director Robert Redfield said the organization was “highly compromised” during its initial efforts.
“Clearly, they were incapable of compelling China to adhere to the treaty agreements that they have on global health, because they didn’t do that,” Redfield told Fox News last week. “Clearly, they allowed China to define the group of scientists that could come and investigate.”
However, while a WHO team concluded a lab leak was not a likely cause of the pandemic, WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for further investigation of the theory.
“Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy,” Tedros said in March of this year.