Multiple sources within the administration indicate that there is an appetite to use various tools, including sanctions, the cancellation of US debt obligations and the development of new trade policies, to make clear to the China and everyone else, where they feel the responsibility lies.
As China’s transparency raises serious questions, the Trump administration has stepped up efforts to blame China for the global spread of the virus as criticism of its own handling of the pandemic has intensified. President Donald Trump repeatedly downplayed the threat of the new coronavirus and suggested that it would not be a problem for the United States at a time when it was already clearly spreading around the world. Trump has also repeatedly praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for praising his handling of the crisis as he sought to back up a trade deal with the Chinese.
Pompeo said on Sunday that some efforts by the Chinese Communist Party were not seen, but others were public, such as the ban on American health professionals from entering the laboratories of Wuhan, the city of origin of the virus, and to silence scientists.
“President Trump is very clear, we will hold those responsible to account and we will do so according to our own timetable,” said Pompeo.
Trump administration officials have pushed the U.S. intelligence community to determine the exact origins of the coronavirus epidemic by pursuing an unproven theory that the pandemic started due to a laboratory accident in China, said several sources at CNN. On Thursday, the president contradicted the intelligence community and said he saw evidence that gives it a “high degree of confidence”. Covid-19 is from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, but declined to provide details to support his claim.
Asked about Trump’s belief and whether he had seen evidence to support this claim, Pompeo said, “There is huge evidence that this is where it started.”
“We said from the start that it was a virus from Wuhan, China. We took great pains for it from the outside, but I think the whole world can see it now,” did he declare. He later added, “There is a significant amount of evidence that this came from this Wuhan laboratory.”
Asked Sunday about the finding, Pompeo said he agreed with it. Pompeo said he had “no reason not to believe” the intelligence community, adding, “I have seen their analysis. I have seen the summary you saw which has been made public. I do not have no reason to doubt the accuracy. “
Although Pompeo also echoed Trump’s statement last week that he saw evidence linking the outbreak to the Wuhan lab, which contradicts the statement from the office of the director of national intelligence. According to this statement, the American intelligence services were examining “rigorously” whether the epidemic was “due to contact with infected animals or whether it was the result of an accident in a laboratory in Wuhan”.
Pompeo added that China “behaves like authoritarian regimes, tries to hide and conceal and confuse and uses the World Health Organization as a tool to do the same.”
“These are the kinds of things that have presented this huge crisis and huge loss of life and huge economic loss all over the world,” he said. “The Australians agree with that, you hear the Europeans starting to say the same thing, and I think the whole world is united in understanding that China has introduced this virus to the world.”
CNN reported last month that the U.S. government was studying the theory that the virus came from the laboratory but had not yet been able to corroborate it. In April, General Mark Milley, the president of the joint chiefs of staff, said that the weight of evidence suggests that the virus was of natural origin.
When asked if China had intentionally released the virus or if it was an accident, Pompeo declined to give notice.
“I have nothing to say about this. I think there is a lot to know, but I can say it. We have done our best to try to answer all of these questions. We have tried to to involve a team, the WHO (World Health Organization) tried to call a team, and they failed. No one was allowed to enter this laboratory or any other laboratory … is an ongoing challenge. We still have to get in. We still don’t have the virus samples we need. “
The U.S.-China clash is brewing amid growing suspicion in the administration over China’s growing strategic challenge and the fury that the virus has destroyed an economy seen as Trump’s passport for a second term.
There are serious questions to be asked about China’s transparency in the early days of the Wuhan epidemic and whether its autocratic system favored an attempt to conceal it. The United States is not the only country that wants answers in the midst of a pandemic that has devastated the global economy and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
In response to mounting pressure, China has launched a propaganda effort to divert its own guilt, including accusing U.S. soldiers of importing the pathogen in remarks that have infuriated Trump. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang accused “American politicians” of telling lies about the pandemic on Tuesday.
“They have only one goal: to try to evade responsibility for their own epidemic and prevention and control measures and to divert public attention,” he said.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler, Rebecca Grandahl and Chandelis Duster contributed to this report.