US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday there was “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus pandemic originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, echoing a claim made by President Donald Trump earlier this week.
“There is enormous evidence that this is where it began,” the US secretary of state said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“These are not the first times that we’ve had a world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab,” Pompeo added, pointing at China’s “history of running substandard laboratories.”
Though highly critical of China’s handling of the matter, Pompeo declined to say whether he thought the virus had been intentionally released.
Speaking at the White House on Thursday, Trump also claimed he had seen evidence that the virus originated in a Chinese lab, ratcheting up tensions with Beijing over the origins of the deadly outbreak.
“Yes, yes I have,” Trump said when asked if he had seen evidence that gave him a “high degree of confidence” the virus came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The US president declined to give specifics, adding: “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”
The Chinese state-backed Wuhan Institute of Virology has dismissed the allegations, and other US officials have downplayed their likelihood. Most experts believe the virus originated in a market selling wildlife in Wuhan and jumped from animals to people.
Pompeo himself had appeared to cast doubt on Trump’s claims, stating on Thursday that it was not known whether the virus came from the lab.
“We don’t know if it came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. We don’t know if it emanated from the wet market or yet some other place. We don’t know those answers,” Pompeo said in an interview with Newsradio 1040.
The spread of the coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease Covid-19, has contributed to a deepening rift between the Trump administration and China.
Beijing has suggested the US military might have brought the virus to China and Trump has said China failed to alert the world to the risks in a timely and transparent fashion.
Trump also said on Thursday it was possible that China either could not stop the spread of the coronavirus or allowed it to spread.