Biden hasn’t confronted Xi Jinping about allegations China misled world about pandemic origins

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President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he has not confronted Chinese President Xi Jinping about allegations that the Chinese Communist Party misled the world at the start of the pandemic, despite Biden speaking with Xi in February.

Officials from both the Trump and Biden administrations have said that the Chinese government worked for over a year to thwart an independent investigation into the origins of the virus, which has killed 2.86 million people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, and both administrations cast doubt on the manner in which a joint World Health Organization- China study released last month was conducted in early 2021. The outbreak is widely believed to have begun in Wuhan, China, but Chinese officials and state-run outlets have repeatedly attempted to shift blame to the U.S. military without evidence.

Biden was asked at a Tuesday afternoon press briefing if he had spoken with Xi to ask him if China misled the world.

“No, I have not had that conversation with President Xi,” Biden said.

Biden and Xi spoke by phone on Feb. 10 and discussed a range of items but not the allegations that China prevented investigations or covered up the origins of the pandemic, according to a White House readout of the call.

U.S. CONDEMNS CHINA FOR FALSE CLAIMS ON COVID-19

The Biden State Department, though, recently issued a rare rebuke of China‘s continued efforts to push baseless claims about COVID-19 originating with the U.S. military.

“The United States condemns the PRC’s false, baseless, and unscientific claims which undermine the spirit and purpose of an impartial origins investigation,” a State Department spokesperson told the Washington Examiner. “We remain concerned by the misleading alternative theories about the origins of the virus advanced by the PRC. We cannot know the origins of the virus and its spread until the PRC provides a full accounting of the actions it took and full transparency of the knowledge it had in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has been pushing the baseless claims about the U.S. military, including Maryland’s Fort Detrick, for over a year, and he revived the claims last week. Hua Chunying, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, brought up the U.S. military claims, too, the next day.

A Pentagon spokesperson pointed the Washington Examiner to its statement saying it was a “myth” that “U.S. service members visiting China were the source of the coronavirus outbreak.” The Defense Department criticized the Chinese government “as being irresponsible and unhelpful with combating the pandemic the world is facing today.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said March 30 that the Chinese government should have provided more complete data related to the early stages of the outbreak and said the WHO-China team had not fully investigated the potential of COVID-19 originating through an accidental leak from a Wuhan lab, a hypothesis he insisted still needed further study despite being dubbed “extremely unlikely” by the WHO-China team.

A Trump State Department fact sheet on the Wuhan Institute of Virology declassified in mid-January assessed that lab workers had fallen ill with COVID-19-like symptoms before the wider Wuhan outbreak in 2019 and that the Wuhan lab had conducted secret experiments with the Chinese military and gain-of-function research.

Antony Blinken, Biden’s secretary of state, cast doubt on the WHO-China report, saying: “We’ve got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into that report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it.” Blinken largely dodged a question on whether China should be punished.

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The State Department and a number of U.S. allies released a joint statement last week critiquing the WHO-China report, saying that “we join in expressing shared concerns regarding the recent WHO-convened study in China.”

Former President Donald Trump’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, Robert Redfield, said in March that COVID-19 likely originated through an accidental escape from the Wuhan lab.

“It is beyond doubt that the CCP actively engaged in a cover-up designed to obfuscate data, hide relevant public health information, and suppress doctors and journalists who attempted to warn the world,” a House GOP Foreign Affairs Committee report from September said, adding, “Senior CCP leaders, including CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, knew a pandemic was ongoing weeks before it was announced. By responding in a transparent and responsible manner, the CCP could have supported the global public health response and shared information with the world about how to handle the virus. It is likely the ongoing pandemic could have been prevented had they done so, saving hundreds of thousands of lives and the world from an economic meltdown.”

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