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US: Esper accuses China of 'misleading' world on virus

'I don't have much faith that they're even being truthful now,' says Defense Secretary Mark Esper

Michael Hernandez   | 16.04.2020
US: Esper accuses China of 'misleading' world on virus

WASHINGTON

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper accused China Thursday of "misleading" the world on the origins of the novel coronavirus, and being opaque in its messaging.

Asked during a televised interview if it is possible the novel coronavirus came from a Chinese laboratory, Esper said "the results are inconclusive."

"This is something we have been watching now for some time," he said on the Today program. "We do know one thing, if the Chinese government, the party, had been more transparent earlier, it would have helped us in terms of staying ahead of this virus, being able to understand its DNA, develop therapeutics and vaccines much quicker."

"They need to be far more forthright than what they've been," he said. "I don't have much faith that they're even being truthful now."

The comments follow a report in the Washington Post in which the newspaper said two years ago officials from the U.S. Embassy in China visited a research lab in Wuhan, where the virus originated, several times and sent warnings to Washington about inadequate safety at the facility.

The lab was conducting studies on coronaviruses in bats that the Post said were "risky."

In one diplomatic cable obtained by the newspaper, authors raise the alarm about the facility's work on bat coronaviruses, and the potential that they would be spread to human hosts and begin a potential pandemic similar to the 2003 SARS outbreak, which also originated in China.

“During interactions with scientists at the WIV laboratory, they noted the new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory,” according to the cable dated Jan. 19, 2018.

It was referring to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the site where science diplomats were repeatedly sent.

Other concerns were reportedly raised about the nearby Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention lab, which operates at a less secure level than the institute.

In the four months that have passed since the novel coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, more than 2 million people have become infected and nearly 140,000 have died worldwide.

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