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China labels COVID-19 lab leak theory as ‘absurd’, Blinken calls for transparency

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed the need for cooperation and transparency around the origins of COVID-19 in a call with Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on Friday and raised other controversial issues, including China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Yang, China̵

7;s top diplomat, told Blinken Beijing’s serious concern that some people in the United States were spreading the “absurd story” about coronavirus escaping from a Wuhan laboratory, Chinese state media said.

Yang, head of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of China’s ruling Communist Party, also told Blinken that Washington should deal with Taiwan-related issues “carefully and appropriately,” state broadcaster CCTV reported.

The call came ahead of a G7 summit in Britain attended by US President Joe Biden and expected to be dominated by Washington-led efforts to counter China’s growing influence. Read more

The world’s two largest economies are deeply at odds with issues ranging from trade and technology to human rights and the coronavirus. Washington should work with Beijing to put ties “back on track,” Yang said.

Yang, who had a heated exchange with Blinken in Alaska in March during the Biden administration’s first high-level meeting with his Chinese counterparts, said Beijing was strongly opposed to what he called “heinous acts” over the pandemic, which he said was used to slander China, CCTV said.

The State Department said the diplomats also discussed North Korea’s policies and that Blinken expressed concern for the United States over the deterioration of democratic norms in Hong Kong and what Washington describes as the genocide of Muslim Ughurs in China’s Xinjiang region. Read more

Blinken also called on China to halt its press campaign against Taiwan and release “wrongfully detained” US and Canadian citizens, it said in a statement.


The State Department said the discussion on North Korea – a topic on which the United States is eager for more Chinese action to pressure its ally and neighbor to abandon its nuclear weapons – focused on the need for Beijing and Washington “to work together for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” . “

It said the two diplomats also continued discussions on common global challenges, including Iran and Myanmar, and the climate crisis.

“In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Secretary stressed the importance of cooperation and transparency regarding the origin of the virus, including the need for WHO Phase 2 expert-led studies in China,” it said, referring to the World Health Organization.

Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the German Marshall Fund in the United States, thought that although the agenda included potential areas of cooperation, the conversation seemed to be dominated by contentious issues.

She said Yang’s call to Washington to work with Beijing to put ties “back on track” showed that China was still blaming the United States for the problems in the relationship.

“It is a non-starter, but shows that the Chinese are sticking to their tried and true diplomatic approaches, even if they are not successful.”

A report on the origin of COVID-19 from a national U.S. government laboratory concluded the hypothesis that a viral leak from a Wuhan laboratory was likely and deserved further investigation, the Wall Street Journal said Monday. Read more

“We urge the United States to respect facts and science, refrain from politicizing the issue … and focus on international cooperation in the fight against the pandemic,” Yang said.

His comments to Taiwan followed a visit to the Chinese-claimed island last weekend by three U.S. senators on a U.S. military plane. They met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and announced the donation to Taiwan of 750,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, which drew a sharp reprimand from China’s Ministry of Defense. Read more

In addition to coinciding with Biden’s first overseas trip as president to attend the G7 summit, the call comes as Washington has pushed policies to tackle challenges from China. Read more

In the last eight days, Biden updated a decree banning US investment in companies affiliated with China’s military and rolled out steps aimed at China to support US supply chains. His Trade Representative Katherine Tai held a call with Taiwan, the Pentagon concluded a China-political review, and the Senate adopted a comprehensive package of China-focused legislation. Read more

Eric Sayers, a visiting fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said anything that corresponded to a good timing for the administration to have an exchange with Beijing.

“The White House should feel more confident in taking these calls and letting Beijing run down on their outdated talking points,” Sayers said.

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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