More US allies and other countries are joining the Trump administration’s call for an investigation into China, the World Health Organization and the origins of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s a global recognition that China is responsible for this crisis, wasn’t transparent, and that not getting to the bottom of this could lead to future pandemics,” the Atlantic Council’s Matthew Kroenig, author of a new book, “The Return of Great Power Rivalry,” told the Washington Examiner.
“This is a good sign that we’re seeing a number of key democratic allies in Europe and Asia with a pretty unified voice saying, ‘China is a problem, we need more information, and [to not be] intimidated by China’s heavy-handed response,’” Kroenig said, referring to the ruling communist party’s economic threats against nations that have been critical of the regime’s handling of the pandemic and lack of transparency.
“You’re seeing a consensus among America’s closest allies that values and national security interests, with regard to the relationship with China, now trumps economics,” former Australian defense ministry adviser Patrick Buchan told the Examiner.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for an investigation into the emergence of the pandemic as well as the WHO’s response to the crisis. Chinese officials tried to thwart any probe with economic threats, but Australian officials refused to back down.
Chinese officials are furious with Australia, which also called for Taiwan — an autonomous country China considers a renegade province — to rejoin the WHO several years after Beijing forced its ouster.
“If the mood is going from bad to worse, people would think why we should go to such a country while it’s not so friendly to China,” Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye told the Australian Financial Review this week.
“And also, maybe the ordinary people will think why they should drink Australian wine or eat Australian beef. Why couldn’t we do it differently?”
Sweden has also called for a probe.
“When the global situation of Covid-19 is under control, it is both reasonable and important that an international, independent investigation be conducted to gain knowledge about the origin and spread of the coronavirus,” Swedish Health Minister Lena Hallengren wrote in a Wednesday message to her parliament, the paper reported.
“It is also important that the entire international community’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the World Health Organization, is investigated.”
The president of the European Commission has also backed calls for a probe into the origin of the coronavirus but said China should be involved in the process, CNBC reported.
Lawmakers in countries like Germany, Sweden and Australia have also asked for an investigation into the virus, which has so far infected over 3.2 million people and killed over 230,000.
Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the EU’s executive arm, told CNBC she would like to see China work with her group and others to get to the bottom of how the virus emerged.
“I think this is for all of us important, I mean for the whole world it is important. You never know when the next virus is starting, so we all want for the next time, we have learned our lesson and we’ve established a system of early warning that really functions and the whole world has to contribute to that,” she said, while calling for more transparency in the future.
“For example, at the level of the European Union, we know that we need a more robust data system for such situations as we see it right now with the coronavirus. And for building up a system that is, that you can count on,” she said.
Coronavirus, which causes the disease Covid-19, was first reported in December in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Trump said Thursday that he’s seen evidence linking the coronavirus to a Wuhan lab, but declined to elaborate, saying: “I can’t tell you that. I am not allowed to tell you that.”
The US intelligence community, however, released a statement earlier Thursday indicating that it agreed with the scientific consensus that the virus wasn’t “man-made” or genetically modified.
The WHO, though, is reserving its criticism of China and the ruling Communist Party.
Richard Horton, co-chair of the WHO’s independent Expert Review Group, praised China’s handling of the pandemic in an interview with the China Global Television Network.
“China should be very proud of its medical and scientific community,” Horton said, adding that it was not helpful, incorrect and factually incorrect to blame a country, like China, for the pandemic.
Horton, who also is editor-in-chief of the British medical journal The Lancet, cast blame on the US for purportedly acting too slowly in response to the threat.
“Most western countries, and the United States of America, wasted the whole of February and early March before they acted. That is the human tragedy of Covid-19,” he said.
Deborah Birx, the State Department immunologist on the coronavirus task force, said the Chinese Communist Party’s initial public reporting influenced assumptions elsewhere in the world about the nature of the virus. The Communist Party delayed for six days before warning its citizens that the coronavirus outbreak in the city of Wuhan had likely become a pandemic, allowing thousands of people to become infected, according to reports.