China Won't Support International COVID-19 Probe Without the 'Right Atmosphere,' UN Ambassador Says

China's ambassador to the UN in Geneva has dismissed international requests to allow foreign experts into the country to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, suggesting such a move is not appropriate until after the virus has been defeated.

Ambassador Chen Xu said Wednesday that Beijing would not prioritize any foreign expert mission to probe the coronavirus outbreak while the pandemic continues.

"The top priority, for the time being, is to focus on the fight against the pandemic until we win the final victory," Chen told reporters during an online video briefing. "We need the right focus and allocation of our resources."

"It's not that we are allergic to any kind of investigations, inquiries or evaluations," Chen said, which he noted could help prepare the international community for future pandemics. "We need to race with time to save lives as much as we can," he explained.

The World Health Organization has said it is waiting for an invitation from Beijing to take part in a coronavirus investigation. Asked whether the WHO could expect such a proposal, Chen replied: "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."

Newsweek has contacted the Chinese mission to the UN in Geneva to request further comment on the conditions under which China would allow an international investigation to take place.

China has been accused of a lack of transparency over the novel coronavirus pandemic, which was first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December. Local officials allegedly silenced whistleblower doctors who initially tried to raise the alarm, while Beijing has been accused of being too slow to inform the international community of the scale and severity of the threat.

U.S. criticism has been especially fierce. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have blamed China for the pandemic and hinted at repercussions. Both have also suggested that the virus could have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory, rather than originating at a wildlife market in the city as previously theorized.

Neither the president nor the secretary of state have provided evidence to support the assertion. U.S. allies, the WHO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley have all contradicted the theory.

China has rejected the theory as baseless and framed international criticism as an unfair attempt to deflect attention from other nations' failures in handling the pandemic. Chen told reporters Wednesday that the politicization of the crisis is "absurd and ridiculous."

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This file photo shows Chinese Ambassador Chen Xu at a press conference at the United Nations offices in Geneva, Switzerland on February 26, 2020. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images/Getty
China Won't Support International COVID-19 Probe Without the 'Right Atmosphere,' UN Ambassador Says | World