WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s decision to announce an intensified 90-day review into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic is partly due to the Chinese government’s refusal to participate in a World Health Organization investigation, said a source close to the decision at NBC News.
Biden released a statement on Wednesday asking the intelligence community to redouble their efforts to get to the bottom of the origins of the Covid-19, after new reports raised questions about its spread from a laboratory in Wuhan, in China.
The source said the genesis of Biden’s request dates back weeks, after receiving information on the matter he requested in March, the source said. The information was in the President’s Daily Brief, the highly confidential briefing prepared for the President by the intelligence community.
Biden asked if he could declassify part of the report without compromising the sources and methods so that the White House can share the information publicly, the source said.
That effort was underway when China announced on Tuesday that it would not participate in “phase two” of the WHO investigation into the origins of Covid-19. A joint WHO-China study in March found that the virus was likely transmitted from bats to humans, and that theories that the virus was spread by “a laboratory incident was considered an extremely unlikely route.” .
China’s decision not to cooperate “has heightened our interest in being more transparent about the measures we are taking,” the source said. “We continue to believe that China has crucial information about the origins of the pandemic that it does not share with the international community. “
Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported, and NBC News confirmed, that a U.S. intelligence report identified three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology who had sought treatment at a hospital after fell ill in November 2019. The lab’s principal investigator previously denied that anyone at the facility fell ill during this time.
In his statement Wednesday, Biden noted that the US intelligence community had not been able to come to a “definitive conclusion” on the origins of the virus and said he had asked National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in March to prepare a report for him on what was known.
Biden said the results concluded that while two pieces of the intelligence community “leaned” toward the explanation that the virus came from contact with animals, another leaned toward the lab’s explanation.
“I have now asked the intelligence community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report to me in 90 days,” the statement said.
Chinese officials raged over Biden’s announcement earlier Thursday, suggesting the United States was being fooled into believing conspiracy theories.
“Some people in the United States are completely ignorant of the facts and the science,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.
Kristen Welker reported from Washington and Dareh Gregorian from New York.