Britain said on Monday that China had questions to answer over the information it shared about the novel coronavirus outbreak, but refused to comment on reports that a U.S.-led intelligence consortium had accused Beijing of a cover-up.
The U.S. has scaled up its rhetoric over Chinese culpability for the coronavirus in recent days, with U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, saying on Sunday there was evidence the disease emerged from a Chinese lab.
Washington has so far presented no evidence publicly that the virus came from a lab, which Beijing strongly denies.
The Australian Telegraph reported the U.S.-led Five Eyes intelligence consortium had in a 15-page research dossier said China had deliberately suppressed or destroyed evidence of the coronavirus outbreak in an “assault on international transparency” that cost tens of thousands of lives.
The Five Eyes group compises U.S., British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand intelligence services.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Every day I get intelligence bulletins from our agencies around the world.
“I don’t comment on individual bulletins, what I have and haven’t seen. That would be wrong.”
Asked if China had questions to answer over how quickly it made the world aware of the extent of the crisis, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “I think it does.”
“China needs to be open and transparent about what it leant, its short comings but also its successes,” Wallace said, adding that the time for a post mortem was after the outbreak.
Reuters has not seen the Five Eyes dossier and was unable to immediately verify the Australian Telegraph report.
One Western intelligence source said it was now widely accepted that China had not been fully transparent.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he was confident the coronavirus originated in a Chinese virology lab.
“Virus samples ordered destroyed at genomics labs, wildlife market stalls bleached, the genome sequence not shared publicly, the Shanghai lab closure for ‘rectification’,” the Telegraph quoted the document as saying.
“As we repeatedly point out, China has been fighting COVID-19 in an open, transparent and responsible manner,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular daily briefing on April 24.