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President Biden did not explicitly discuss the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic with Chinese President Xi Jinping Monday night, but senior government officials said he maintained the importance of “transparency” in global health issues while focusing on “wider health security issues” in a attempt to “end” the pandemic.
Biden and Xi took part in a virtual meeting Monday night — their third engagement since Biden took office in January.
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A senior government official said the two leaders discussed COVID-19, particularly on the “importance of addressing and ending the current pandemic”.
The official said Biden and Xi also discussed the role of vaccines in this.
“Obviously, the president made it very clear that the US approach to donating vaccines and underlined the importance, especially from other countries with large stockpiles, to do the same,” the official said.
The official added that the two also discussed the “importance of preventing future pandemics” as well as “the important role transparency plays in tackling global health problems.”
The Biden administration has focused in recent months on China’s lack of transparency regarding the international investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ahead of the meeting, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic are a “remaining concern” for Biden, saying the president “certainly had no intention of holding back. areas he is concerned about”.
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In August, the Biden administration released its findings from a 90-day intelligence community investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, but was unable to definitively conclude where the virus came from.
“The IC assesses that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, likely originated and infected humans through an initial small-scale exposure that occurred no later than November 2019, with the first known cluster of COVID-19- cases emerged in Wuhan, China in December 2019,” the report’s executive summary reads.
The executive summary added: “We believe that the virus was not developed as a biological weapon. Most agencies also judge with little confidence that SARS-CoV-2 is likely not genetically engineered; however, two bodies believe there was insufficient evidence to make an assessment. anyway. Finally, the IC assesses that the Chinese officials had no prior knowledge of the virus before the first outbreak of COVID-19 emerged.”
The report said that China should fully cooperate with the investigation to definitively determine where the virus comes from.
“China’s cooperation would most likely be necessary to arrive at a conclusive assessment of the origins of COVID-19,” the report said. However, Beijing continues to impede global investigations, oppose information sharing and blame other countries, including the United States. These actions partially reflect the Chinese government’s uncertainty about where an investigation might lead, as well as the frustration from the international community. uses the issue to put political pressure on China.”
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According to the report, the researchers were split between two different theories. The first theory is that natural exposure to an infected animal caused the pandemic and the second is that a “laboratory related incident” was the cause.
Both theories were considered “plausible” by all agencies involved in the investigation, according to the report.
In a statement in August, Biden said China had hindered efforts to investigate the virus “from the start.”
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“The world deserves answers, and I won’t rest until we have them,” he said. “Responsible nations do not shirk these kinds of responsibilities from the rest of the world.”
Meanwhile, in February, Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics — which have called for human rights activists and congressional Republicans to boycott, amid international criticism of China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, the crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong. Kong and his policy towards Tibet and Taiwan.
However, a government official said the Olympics “wasn’t mentioned” on the call.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.