U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday there is "enormous evidence" that the coronavirus pandemic originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, not a nearby market, but declined to say whether the U.S. believes the virus was intentionally released.
U.S. intelligence officials said last week that it is investigating whether the initial COVID-19 outbreak was the result of exposure to wild animals or a laboratory accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running substandard laboratories,” Pompeo said on ABC News’s “This Week.” “These are not the first times that we’ve had a world exposed to viruses as the result of failures in a Chinese lab.”
The top U.S. diplomat said there is a “high degree of confidence” that the virus came from the Wuhan lab, which was studying the presence of the virus in bats.
“There’s enormous evidence that that’s where this began,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo said he has no reason to doubt the U.S. intelligence community's consensus that the virus was "not manmade or genetically modified."
But he blamed China for delays in informing the world of the emerging threat of Covid-19.
He said the worldwide number of cases — now more than 3.4 million, with a death toll of nearly 245,000 — would not have been so extensive had China not “attempted to conceal and hide and confuse. It employed the World Health Organization as a tool to do the same.
“We can confirm that the Chinese communist party did all that it could to make sure world didn’t learn in a timely fashion about was taking place,” he said. “There’s lots of evidence of that.”
Pompeo said that U.S. and international scientists have not been allowed to visit the Wuhan laboratory and that China has not provided a sample of the original virus.
“We have said from the beginning, that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan, China,” Pompeo said. “We took a lot of grief for that from the outset.”
Now, he said, China has embarked on a campaign to keep the world from further investigating its role in the pandemic’s origin.
“We’ve seen the fact they’ve kicked journalists out,” Pompeo said. “We saw the fact that those who were trying to report on this, medical professionals inside of China, were silenced.
“This is a classic communist disinformation effort that created enormous risk,” he said. “And now you can see hundreds of thousands of people around the world and tens of thousands in the U.S.” who have contracted the virus.
He said U.S. President Donald Trump is “very clear: we’re going to hold those responsible, accountable. We’ll do so on a timeline that is ours.”