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Blinken suggests US won't take punitive action on China over COVID-19

Blinken suggests US won't take punitive action on China over COVID-19
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Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenThe CROOK Act offers rare opportunity for bipartisanship on immigration Russia keeping 80K troops at border amid NATO exercise, US officials say India diplomat cancels in-person G-7 meetings over possible coronavirus exposure MORE on Sunday suggested that the U.S. will not take punitive action on China for its handling of COVID-19, instead saying the government’s focus “needs to be on building a strong system for the future.”

“We do need to have both accountability for the past, but I think our focus needs to be on building a stronger system for the future,” Blinken told anchor Dana BashDana BashW.Va. senator: 'I hope that President Trump plays a role' in upcoming elections Manchin: 'I'm not a roadblock' to Biden's agenda Harris on her approach to immigration: 'Most people don't want to leave home' MORE on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The remarks come after former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert RedfieldRobert RedfieldThe dangers of pausing the J&J vaccine Clyburn: Documents show Trump officials helped suppress coronavirus CDC reports CDC director walks tightrope on pandemic messaging MORE made waves with comments to CNN in which he said it was his believe that COVID-19 originated in a Chinese lab.

Redfield offered no evidence for the assertion, which most health experts do not agree is how the coronavirus originated. A WHO official who co-led a group of international and Chinese experts into Wuhan for a study has said the theory is "extremely unlikely."

But the statement is likely to give more political momentum to those who argue for a harder stance on China, where the first clusters of cases from the coronavirus originated. 

Blinken said that all countries, including China, going forward have to focus on protecting the world, which will require “a lot of reform” from Beijing.

“So I think what we need to be focused on is making sure we're protecting ourselves and protecting the world going forward, and that's going to require a lot of reform and it's going to require China to do things that it hasn't done in the past,” Blinked said. 

He added that in order to “mitigate in much more effective ways any damage done if something happens in the future,” there needs to be a system in place that features transparency, information sharing and access for international experts. Blinken said this is a "real obligation" for China and every other country to make good on such work, which would also include the WHO.