In an interview with Axios on Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said President Joe Biden’s administration is determined to “get to the bottom” of the origins of COVID-19’s and said the U.S. will hold China accountable.
During the wide-ranging interview, Blinken said, “The most important reason we have to get to the bottom of this is that’s the only way we’re going to be able to prevent the next pandemic or at least do a better job in mitigating it.”
Biden’s secretary of state said China has not “given us the transparency we need,” nor have they given international inspectors access to facilities or real-time information sharing.
Blinken said information sharing from China “has to happen” and said, “at the end of the day, it’s profoundly in China’s interest to do this, as well.” He said if China “purports to be a responsible international actor,” it will have “to do everything it can to provide all the information it has to make sure we can hopefully prevent this from happening again.”
Blinken offered his comments more than a week after Biden announced he had directed the U.S. intelligence community to “redouble” investigative efforts to determine the origins of COVID-19, including exploring the theory that it originated from a lab outbreak in Wuhan, China.
There has been growing support in the U.S. to investigate whether the COVID-19 originated from a lab outbreak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). In March, former Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield said he believes “the most likely etiology of this pathology in Wuhan was from a laboratory.” In May, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the possibility COVID-19 escaped from a lab “certainly exists, and I am totally in favor of a full investigation of whether that could have happened.”
During the interview, Blinken also discussed companies doing business with China. He said it’s “very important” business don’t “aid and abet … China’s ability to use surveillance technology to repress its own people, or to export that technology to allow other autocratic or authoritarian governments from doing the same thing.”
Blinken’s comments on business interactions with China also came just days after Biden signed an executive order naming 59 companies deemed to be working on behalf of China’s military and its surveillance apparatus. Under Biden’s order, U.S. investors are banned from investing in those Chinese firms deemed to be working with China’s military and surveillance sector. Biden’s order expanded on a previous executive order signed in November by then-President Donald Trump.