Australia joined the United States in calling for an “independent international” investigation into China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and how the outbreak started.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said her concerns about Beijing’s transparency during the crisis were “at a very high point.”
“The issues around the coronavirus are issues for independent review, and I think that it is important that we do that,” Payne told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday. “In fact, Australia will absolutely insist on that.”
“My trust in China is predicated in the long-term. My concern is around transparency and ensuring that we are able to engage openly,” Payne said, adding that the World Health Organization shouldn’t conduct the probe.
President Trump has called the Chinese Communist Party out for failing to accurately report its number of coronavirus cases after the virus broke out in the city of Wuhan in December, which hampered the US and other countries’ responses.
At Saturday’s White House briefing, Trump said there should be consequences if the Chinese Communist Party misled the world about the pandemic.
“If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake,” Trump said. “But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, I mean, then sure there should be consequences.”
Two Republican members of Congress – Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas – introduced legislation last week that would allow Americans to sue China in federal court for deaths and economic damage caused by the coronavirus.
Crenshaw said Americans “need to hold the Chinese government accountable for their malicious lies and coverup that allowed the coronavirus to spread across the world.
The president last week said his administration would halt payments to the WHO while a review was underway to determine if the United Nations’ agency mismanaged or covered up the outbreak.
Since the initial case in Wuhan, more than 2.4 million people around the world have been infected and more than 166,000 have died.
US officials are looking into the possibility that the coronavirus escaped from a lab in Wuhan instead of at a wet market, Fox News reported.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman on Monday said Payne’s remarks were “entirely without factual basis.”
“China expresses deep concern and resolute opposition to this,” Geng Shuang told reporters during a daily briefing in Beijing, Reuters reported.