Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was “significant amount of evidence” on Sunday that the latest coronavirus originated from a Chinese laboratory, but did not question the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that it was not man-made.
There’s a large amount of evidence that this originated from the laboratory in Wuhan, “Pompeo told ABC’s” This Week, “referring to the virus the emerged in China late last year and killed about 240,000 people worldwide, including over 67,000 in the United States.
Pompeo then momentarily disputed a statement released by the top U.S. intelligence agency last Thursday that said the virus did not appear man-made or genetically engineered. That assertion underscored conspiracy theories pushed by anti-China activists and some of President Donald Trump’s supporters, who say that it was created in a biological weapons laboratory of the Chinese government.
“The best experts so far seem to think it was man-made. I have no reason to disbelieve that at this point,” Pompeo said.
As the interviewer pointed out that U.S. intelligence services were not assuming, Pompeo backtracked, saying that, : “I’ve seen what the intelligence community has said. I have no reasonto believe that they’ve got it wrong.”
The State Department did not respond to an immediate request for clarification on the remarks made by Pompeo.
In an editorial response to Pompeo’s Sunday interview, China’s Global Times, run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Newspaper, said he had no proof that the virus had originated from the Wuhan laboratory and that he was “bluffing,” calling on the United States to show the facts.
“The Trump administration continues to engage in unprecedented propaganda warfare while trying to impede global efforts in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” the editorial said.
A report from the National Intelligence Director’s Office on Thursday said it agreed with “the wide scientific consensus” that the disease was not man-made.
For weeks, U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports and research have said they don’t accept that Chinese scientists created the coronavirus in a government biological weapons laboratory from which it escaped afterwards.
Rather, they said they suspected that it was either released on a meat market in Wuhan’s central city through human interaction with wildlife, or that it may have escaped from one of two Wuhan government labs suspected to be carrying out civilian research into possible biological hazards.
Pompeo said Thursday it was not clear whether the virus originated from Virology’s Wuhan Institute, a meat market, or somewhere else. Trump said he was sure that it might have emerged in a Chinese virology lab the same day but he declined to explain the facts.