Tensions between the U.S. and China are rising regarding the source of the COVID-19 outbreak. As U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been blaming China for causing the outbreak and demanding an investigation with provocative remarks, China is harshly criticizing it as a “political show.”
“Personally, I think they made a horrible mistake, and they didn’t want to admit it,” Trump responded to a question on Sunday asking if he thinks the virus has originated from a Chinese research institute. “They tried to cover it, like a fire… They couldn’t put out the fire.” The president said he will get a report on the origins of the virus and how the Wuhan Institute of Virology might be involved, which would be “very conclusive.” He mentioned applying retaliatory tariffs on Thursday, saying that he has seen the evidence that the virus has originated from the Wuhan institute.
“There is enormous evidence that that’s where this began,” Pompeo said during an interview with ABC on Sunday, adding that this is not the first time that the world is exposed to viruses due to the failures of Chinese research institutes.
To a question asking if the virus was spread intentionally by China or by mistake, the secretary of state answered that there are many questions to be resolved, which require an on-site investigation. “We have come up with a bill to put sanctions on China until the country cooperates with an investigation into the Wuhan institute,” said Lindsey Graham, a Republican Senator and a close confidant of the president.
In the U.S., there are two theories regarding the origins of COVID-19 – the Wuhan institute produced the virus to use it as a biological weapon; or the virus was leaked from the institute by accident. “The biological weapon hypothesis is unlikely while the accidental leakage scenario is more probable, but no direct evidence is not available yet,” said Axios, a website covering political news. Meanwhile, President Trump said it was Chinese “mistake” on Sunday and Secretary Pompeo also said there is no reason to doubt that COVID-19 has not been man-made. The two seem to have emphasized the necessity of an investigation into the Wuhan institute to find out how the virus has been leaked, even if it was an accident.
The Associated Press reported on Sunday that Chinese leaders “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic from the world in early January to stockpile medical supplies and equipment according to a four-page Department of Homeland Security intelligence report. The Chinese government deployed reporting on the dangers of COVID-19 to the World Health Organization (WHO) while importing medical supplies from foreign countries, leading to the country’s import surge of masks and protective gloves at the beginning of this year.
The U.S. and China are also confronting each other regarding Taiwan’s participation in a WHO meeting. The World Health Assembly (WHA), the highest policy-setting body of the WHO, will hold a video conference meeting on May 18. The State Department and the U.S. representative at the United Nations posted a hashtag on Saturday, supporting Taiwan to become a member of the WHO. The American Institute in Taiwan, which works as the Taiwanese embassy in the U.S., announced on the same day that it will update daily posts on Facebook supporting Taiwan’s joining of the WHA.
China is strongly opposing the U.S.’s claim, saying that the U.S. is politicizing the COVID-19 issue. “It is in violation of the One-China policy that Taiwan is part of the country – it may send wrong signals to independent forces in Taiwan,” the Chinese representatives in Geneva said.
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