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Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman says evidence suggests coronavirus was not man-made or released from lab

The Pentagon’s top uniformed official on Tuesday maintained that available evidence indicates the virus that has caused a global pandemic was natural and not man-made or released purposely from a Chinese lab.

“The weight of evidence — nothing’s conclusive — the weight of evidence is that it was natural and not man-made,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Austin sworn in as nation's first Black Pentagon chief Pelosi's risky blunder: Talking about Trump and nuclear war MORE said of the coronavirus.

“The second issue is, was it accidentally released, did it release naturally into the environment or was it intentional? We don’t have conclusive evidence in any of that, but the weight of evidence is that it was probably not intentional,” he told reporters at the Pentagon.

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Milley added that “various agencies, both civilian and U.S. government, are looking at” the issue of where the virus originated.

The Trump administration this month stepped up efforts to blame China for the pandemic, with top officials including President TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoBiden must wait weekend for State Department pick State Dept. to review Trump admin's decision to label Houthis a terrorist organization VOA reinstates White House reporter reassigned after questioning Pompeo MORE pushing the unverified theory that the virus was created by Chinese researchers or accidentally released by a lab in Wuhan, China, where it was being studied.

Trump, who has come under consistent scrutiny for his own slow response to the virus domestically, has repeatedly accused China of covering up the outbreak and claimed there is significant evidence that the virus emanated from a Wuhan lab — though has not actually provided any evidence.

But Milley since last month has maintained that while the U.S. intelligence community was taking "a hard look" at the theory, it's inconclusive, and “the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural [origin].”

And Anthony FauciAnthony FauciAstraZeneca vaccine distribution begins in Brazil Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call Sunday shows preview: All eyes on Biden administration to tackle coronavirus MORE, the nation's top infectious disease expert and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, has dismissed theories the virus was man-made or released accidentally from a Chinese lab. He said available research indicated the virus evolved naturally.

Milley on Tuesday did push for the Chinese government to “open up and allow inspectors and investigators” to go into Wuhan “so that the world can know the actual original source of this [virus] so that we can apply the lessons learned and prevent outbreaks in the future.”