Get our newsletter delivered directly to your inbox
I have already subscribed | Do not show this message again
Your email has been successfully registered.
Washington and Beijing are in the midst of a heated exchange of accusations, pointing fingers at each other in terms of the responsibility for unleashing the coronavirus pandemic on the world. U.S. officials claim that the virus may have been unleashed due to a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, while Chinese officials claim it may have originated in a U.S. military bio lab.
Chen Xu, China’s permanent representative to the UN office in Geneva, has sent the World Health Organisation a formal request asking the global health authority to open an investigation into Fort Detrick, the Maryland-based U.S. Army laboratory once known as the center of America’s biological weapons program, and its possible role in the origins of the novel coronavirus.
Chen reiterated in his letter Beijing’s position on SARS-CoV-2, which matches the conclusions of the joint WHO-China team´s research conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and in the city, stating that the Wuhan lab leak theory is an “extremely unlikely” scenario.
The letter went on to ask the WHO to probe the lab at Fort Detrick, and to investigate research carried out by University of North Carolina professor Ralph Baric, suggesting that “if some parties are of the view that the "lab leak" hypothesis remains open, it is the labs of Fort Detrick and the University of North Carolina in the U.S. that should be subject to transparent investigation with full access.”
Chen accompanied his letter with an online petition signed by over 25 million Chinese nationals demanding an investigation into Fort Detrick, as well as two documents, entitled “Doubtful Points About Fort Detrick” and “Coronavirus Research Conducted by Dr. Ralph Baric’s Team at the University of North Carolina".
The latter document, published in full by Xinhua, calls into question U.S. epidemiologist Dr. Ralph Baric’s work into coronaviruses, including gain-of-function research, and points to his team’s research into synthesizing and modifying SARS-related coronaviruses going back to at least 2003, including bat-related coronaviruses, since at least 2008.
Meanwhile, Fu Cong, director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s department of arms control and disarmament, commented during a press briefing on Chen’s letter, suggesting that “the international community has long been seriously concerned about Fort Detrick,” and pointing to the facility’s “advanced capabilities to synthesize and modify SARS-related coronaviruses as early as 2003.”
Fu pointed to “multiple” alleged biological safety-related accidents taking place at the institute, including the mysterious July 2019 shutdown, after which “outbreaks of respiratory diseases sharing similar symptoms of COVID-19” began to be reported “in the communities near Fort Detrick.”
Earlier this month, China rejected a push by the WHO to continue its investigation into COVID-19’s origins at the Wuhan lab, citing their support for "scientific, not politicized" theories on the virus’s roots. On 12 August, the world health authority called on Beijing to share raw data on the earliest cases of Covid.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday received a classified intelligence report on the origins of the coronavirus that reportedly failed to conclusively determine if the outbreak was the result of spillover from animals to humans or an accidental lab leak https://t.co/6p66VgHcEOpic.twitter.com/Kt3NvNUrcE
US President Joe Biden, who spent the 2020 campaign dismissing then-president Donald Trump’s claims on Covid’s Wuhan potential man-made origins, reversed course and ordered a probe into how the virus may have spread to humans in May, giving intelligence agencies until the end of August to put a report on his desk. Chinese media have accused Washington of using “second-hand, unreliable evidence to compile a report that tries to smear China,” while officials in Beijing continue to support the original WHO-China joint study, which concluded that a leak from the Wuhan lab was “highly unlikely”.