China's ambassador to the United Nations said Wednesday that the country's government would not allow the international community to investigate the source of the novel coronavirus until after a "final victory" against the disease.
Chen Xu told reporters during an online briefing that addressing the pandemic remained Beijing's first priority, according to Agence France-Presse. He added that the second priority was countering "absurd and ridiculous" politicization of the outbreak from the U.S., which has continually criticized the government's lack of transparency during the outbreak's early stages.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that China denied repeated requests to enter the country to launch an investigation into the origins of the virus. Asked when the United Nations body may receive an invitation, Xu said "the top priority, for the time being, is to focus on the fight against the pandemic until we win the final victory."
He added that China is not "allergic to any kind of investigations, inquiries or evaluations," noting that the efforts could help work around the globe to combat future health threats.
"For whether or how the invitation will take place, we need to have the right priority-setting at this moment, and on the other hand, we need the right atmosphere," he said.
The novel coronavirus is believed to have first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December. It has since spread worldwide, infecting more than 3.6 million people and causing roughly 258,000 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University database of confirmed cases.
Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoThe CIA's next mission: Strategic competition with China and Russia Biden, Trump tied in potential 2024 match-up: poll Why is Trump undermining his administration's historic China policies? MORE has led the calls inside the Trump administration for China to grant U.S. health officials access to Chinese virology labs in Wuhan. The WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have said the first cases of the virus were detected in people who attended an animal market in the city. Researchers believe the disease likely originated in bats.
Pompeo claimed on Sunday that there was “enormous evidence” the novel coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan.
The U.S. intelligence community has said they agree with "the widespread scientific consensus" that the virus was "not manmade or genetically modified." The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement last week saying it is continuing to investigate "whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”
Gauden Galea, the WHO representative in China, told Sky News last week that investigating the origins of the virus is "very important," noting that the world needs to know as much as possible to prevent a second wave of infections.