China brands COVID-19 lab-leak theory as ‘absurd,’ Blinken urges transparency

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

Yang, China’s top diplomat, expressed serious concern to Beijing that some people in the US were spreading the “absurd story” of the coronavirus escaping from a Wuhan laboratory, Chinese state media said.

Yang, the head of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, also told Blinken that Washington should handle Taiwan-related matters “carefully and appropriately,” state broadcaster CCTV reported.

The call came ahead of a G7 summit in Britain attended by US President Joe Biden, which is expected to be dominated by Washington-led efforts to counter China’s growing influence. Continue reading

The world’s two largest economies are profoundly divided on issues ranging from trade and technology to human rights and the coronavirus. Washington should work with Beijing to “get relations back on track,” Yang said.

Yang, who had a fiery exchange with Blinken in Alaska during the Biden government’s first high-level meeting with its counterparts in China in March, said Beijing strongly contradicts “heinous acts” regarding the pandemic it is allegedly used to China slandered, said CCTV.

The State Department said the diplomats also discussed North Korea policy and Blinken expressed US concerns over the deterioration in democratic norms in Hong Kong and what Washington is calling the genocide of Muslim Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region. Continue reading

Blinken also called on China to stop its pressure campaign against Taiwan and release US and Canadian citizens “wrongly imprisoned”, it said in a statement.

“RESPECT FACTS AND SCIENCE”

The State Department said the discussion on North Korea – an issue on which the United States is interested in further Chinese action to urge its allies and neighbors to abandon their nuclear weapons – has centered on the need for Beijing and Washington to “support denuclearization the Korean Peninsula. “

The two diplomats also continued talks on common global challenges, including Iran and Myanmar, and the climate crisis.

“Regarding 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 studies in China,” he said, referring to the World Health Organization.

Bonnie Glaser, Asia expert with the United States’ German Marshall Fund think tank, said although the agenda included potential areas of collaboration, contentious issues appeared to dominate the conversation.

She said Yang’s request to Washington to work with Beijing to “get the relationship back on track” shows that China is still placing responsibility for the problems in the relationship with the United States.

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

A report on the origins of COVID-19 by a US government national laboratory concluded that the hypothesis of a virus leak from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan was plausible and warranted further investigation, the Wall Street Journal said on Monday. Continue reading

“We urge the United States to respect facts and science, not to politicize the issue … and to focus on international cooperation in the fight against the pandemic,” said Yang.

His comments on Taiwan followed a visit to the Chinese-claimed island last weekend by three US senators in a US military plane. They met Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and announced the donation of 750,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan, which resulted in a sharp reprimand from the Chinese Defense Ministry. Continue reading

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