Director-General of the Department of Arms Control and Disarmament of the Foreign Ministry Fu Cong Holds a Briefing on COVID-19 Origin-Tracing

On August 25, 2021, Director-General of the Department of Arms Control and Disarmament of the Foreign Ministry Fu Cong held a briefing on COVID-19 origin-tracing. Some foreign journalists in Beijing attended the meeting.

I. Fu Cong said that on August 24, Permanent Representative of China to the UN Office at Geneva Ambassador Chen Xu wrote to Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, further reiterating China's consistent position on the issue of SARS-CoV-2 origin-tracing, emphasizing that the hypothesis of "a lab leak in the Wuhan Institute of Virology" is extremely unlikely, which is the definite conclusion made in the joint WHO-China study report on the origins of SARS-CoV-2. If some parties are of the view that the "lab leak" hypothesis remains open, an investigation should be made into Fort Detrick and the University of North Carolina based on the principle of fairness and justice. Ambassador Chen Xu also attached two non-papers entitled "Doubtful Points about Fort Detrick (U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases)" and "Coronavirus Research Conducted by Dr. Ralph Baric's Team at the University of North Carolina", as well as a Global Times Joint Letter signed by netizens demanding an investigation into Fort Detrick.

II. Fu Cong said that the international community has long been seriously concerned about Fort Detrick. It is a base of the U.S. bio-military activities, with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases as its most important entity. The Institute already had the advanced capabilities to synthesize and modify SARS-related coronaviruses as early as 2003. Multiple biological safety accidents happened in the Institute in history, leading to the shutdown of its lab by the order of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July 2019. After that, outbreaks of respiratory diseases sharing similar symptoms of COVID-19 occurred in the communities near Fort Detrick. The real causes of these diseases and their cases are yet to be released.

As to the University of North Carolina, the United States has been smearing the researches by the Wuhan Institute of Virology for the spread of SARS-CoV-2. As a matter of fact, the United States has sponsored and carried out the most gain-of-function researches in the world. In particular, Baric team leads the world in researches in this field. A thorough investigation into Baric's team and its lab will help clarify whether such researches have led to or can lead to SARS-CoV-2.

III. Fu Cong pointed out that the United States has conducted the world's most bio-military activities. The international community is concerned about Fort Detrick within the U.S. territory and over 200 U.S. biological laboratories abroad. Their activities are not in line with the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), and are not known by the international community. Any safety accidents in its numerous laboratories abroad will bring catastrophic consequences to the countries involved and the whole world.

While calling for an investigation into the lab of another country, the United States is the only country against the building of a multilateral biological verification mechanism. As early as 2001, the international community generally achieved agreement on a verification protocol of the BWC. On the pretext of "non-verifiable in the biological field", the United States unilaterally withdrew from the BWC, wasting the efforts made by the international community. In the past 20 years, the United States has been neglecting the calls of the international community and opposing the restart of negotiations alone. It should give the international community an explanation, even if there is no origin-tracing.

IV. Fu Cong concluded by emphasizing that China's stance on COVID-19 origin-tracing has been consistent and clear. Origin-tracing is an issue based on science. China always supports and will continue to participate in science-based origin-tracing. The findings and recommendations concluded in the joint WHO-China study report were recognized by the international and scientific communities, and must be respected and implemented. Any future origin-tracing should be carried out on its basis.

The United States cannot whitewash its wrongdoings by smearing China. China once again urges the United States to stop any political manipulation by origin-tracing. If it insists on the hypothesis of a lab leak, it should first invite the WHO to conduct an origin-tracing investigation into Fort Detrick and the University of North Carolina. China will continue to work with the international community to resist the setbacks of politicalizing origin-tracing and bring it back to the right track of scientific cooperation.

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