Beijing on Wednesday reprised bogus claims that COVID-19 might have come from a Maryland lab after FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said publicly Tuesday that federal investigators believe the pandemic likely started with a lab leak in Wuhan, China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning insinuated the source of the outbreak, which has killed nearly 7 million people worldwide, was Fort Detrick or another site as U.S. agencies remain split on whether the virus came from nature or spilled out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“More and more clues from the international science community are pointing the origins of [the] virus to sources around the world. Many have raised questions and concerns about U.S. bio-military bases at Fort Detrick and around the world,” Ms. Mao said in a translated version of her remarks at a daily press conference. “The U.S. should work with the [World Health Organization] to invite experts from the world to the U.S. for origins-tracing study as soon as possible, and share the research result with the international community in a timely, open and transparent manner.”
She also said a joint WHO-China mission concluded the lab-leak theory was unlikely.
China tried to deflect pressure after revelations the U.S. Department of Energy concluded with low confidence that the virus originated from a lab leak. The FBI reached a similar conclusion with “moderate confidence” in 2021, and Mr. Wray acknowledged it publicly late Wednesday in a Fox News interview. He also slammed Beijing for stonewalling international efforts to find out what happened.
“I will just make the observation that the Chinese government, it seems to me, has been doing its best to try to thwart, and obfuscate the work here, the work that we’re doing, the work that our U.S. government and close foreign partners are doing. And that’s unfortunate for everybody,” Mr. Wray said.
U.S. officials say they need to know the origins of the virus to prevent future outbreaks. Republican lawmakers have called for some kind of punishment for China and accused Democrats and government scientists of being too quick to downplay the lab theory in favor of a natural-spillover theory.
The virus, which burst into view in Wuhan in late 2019, was initially blamed on a wet market in the central Chinese city but then some in the U.S. government and scientific community questioned that premise.
Beijing, meanwhile, is accusing the American side of playing politics with a scientific issue.
“China strongly opposes political manipulation of the origins-tracing issue in any form. Putting the intelligence community in charge for a matter of science is a clear sign that the issue has been politicized, Ms. Mao said. “Given the U.S. intelligence community’s track record of making up stories, there is little, if any, credibility in their conclusions. The U.S. will not succeed in discrediting China by rehashing the lab leak theory, but will only hurt the US’s own reputation.”
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.