Blinken says China “has to cooperate” with international probe into coronavirus origins


Washington — Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that China must cooperate with further investigations from the United States and the World Health Organization into the origins of COVID-19, with the world now “insisting” that Beijing do so.

In an interview with “Face the Nation,” Blinken said the main purpose of the examinations is to ensure proper policies and mechanisms can be put in place to prevent another pandemic from happening again or mitigate another outbreak.

“China has to cooperate with that,” the secretary of state told “Face the Nation.” “Transparency, access for international experts, information sharing, that has to happen and, again, I think you’re seeing countries come together to insist on that.”

While President Biden ordered last month the U.S. intelligence community to redouble efforts to investigate the origins of COVID-19, the Group of Seven leaders are also calling for a so-called “Phase II” study from the World Health Organization (WHO) into how the pandemic started, Blinken said.

While the WHO issued a study in March on COVID-19’s origins and found it is “extremely unlikely” the virus leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China, the Biden administration has raised concerns about the methodology and process for the examination, as well as China’s involvement.

“Coming out of this, we need a couple of things,” Blinken said. “We need to understand what happened, we need to get to the bottom of it, and we’re working on that through the WHO, we’re also working on that ourselves.”

Mr. Biden and his fellow G-7 leaders met in Cornwall, England, this weekend for the G-7 Summit, which concluded Sunday. In a communique issued by the group, the nations pledged to commit to removing forced labor from global supply chains, fight ransomware and take action to combat corruption. The U.S. and its allies also called on China to respect the “high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong” and “human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang,” and reiterated their promise to donate 1 billion coronavirus vaccines for poorer nations.

Blinken called this G-7 summit “the most consequential one” he’s participated in and said Mr. Biden united member countries in dealing with the challenges posed by China.

“It’s a complicated relationship for virtually all of the G-7 countries. It’s in some aspects adversarial, in other aspects competitive and in other aspects cooperative,” he said. “But the common denominator, and I think this is where these countries are coming together, is we need to be able to deal with China in all of those areas, coming from a position of strength and coming from a united position.”

Following the G-7, Mr. Biden will travel to Brussels for a NATO Summit and U.S.-European Union Summit, followed by a highly anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Blinken said the Mr. Biden’s summit with the Russian president will not be a “light switch moment” in terms of results, but instead a chance to “tell President Putin directly that we seek a more predictable, stable relationship.”

“If we’re able to do that, there are areas where it’s in our mutual interest to cooperate, but if Russia continues to take reckless and aggressive actions, we’ll respond forcefully, as we’ve already done, when it comes to election interference, when it comes to the SolarWinds cyber attack, when it comes to the attempt to poison and kill Mr. Navalny,” Blinken said, referencing Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. “This is a beginning of testing that proposition, and Russia will have to decide by its actions which direction it wants to go in.”



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