On Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was “enormous evidence” showing the deadly COVID-19 originated in a lab in China, further fueling tensions between the two countries.
The novel coronavirus, which first originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan has so far infected over 3.4 million people globally and killed more than 245,000. The pandemic has pushed the world economy into a standstill with several countries ordering complete or partial lockdowns.
Pompeo's comments come at a time when the United States is preparing to cautiously lift COVID-19 lockdowns as signs emerge of the pandemic slowing down.
This is not the first scathing comment from a US official; US President Donald Trump has been increasingly critical of China over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak. He claims to have proof the virus started in a Chinese laboratory.
Scientists have pinned the origination of the novel virus to a market in Wuhan selling exotic animals for meat. They believe the virus jumped from animals to humans.
While China firmly denies the US president's claims, the US Director of National Intelligence office has said analysts are still examining the exact origin of the outbreak.
Earlier, Pompeo had told the ABC that he agreed that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made.
He, however, backtracked on his statement and went ahead citing “enormous” evidence that the virus originated in a Wuhan lab. He did not present evidence to back up his claim.
“I think the whole world can see now, remember, China has a history of infecting the world and running substandard laboratories,” he said.
Pompeo said early Chinese efforts to downplay the coronavirus amounted to “a classic Communist disinformation effort. That created enormous risk.”
“President Trump is very clear: we’ll hold those responsible accountable.”