May 8, 2020 / 11:30 AM / a month ago

China open to probe of origins of coronavirus, says envoy: report

BERLIN (Reuters) - China is open to an independent investigation to determine the origins of the coronavirus now sweeping the world, its ambassador to Berlin told a German magazine on Friday, amid U.S. allegations that it came from a laboratory.

China has dismissed as groundless U.S. and Australian questioning of how it had handled the coronavirus pandemic, saying it had been open and transparent, despite growing scepticism about the accuracy of its official death toll.

“We are open to an international investigation,” Wu Ken told Der Spiegel magazine in an interview. “We support the exchange of research among scientists.

“...But we reject putting China in the dock without evidence, assuming its guilt and then trying to search for evidence through a so-called international investigation.”

Australia has called for an international investigation into the origins and spread of the virus that emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo say there is evidence it originated in a Wuhan laboratory, without saying what the evidence is. A German intelligence report cast doubts on their accusation.

Some 3.86 million people have been reported to be infected around the world and 268,620 have died, according to Reuters tally.

Responding to Australia’s efforts to establish support for an international inquiry, France and Britain have said their focus is fighting the virus, not apportioning blame.

Trump has been fiercely critical of China and the World Health Organization and has announced the United States will withdraw funding from the U.N. agency.

Many scientists and politicians say now is the time to increase, not cut, funding to the WHO so that it can help find a vaccine.

Writing by Joseph Nasr; editing by Nick Macfie

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