The White House issued a surprise statement Saturday on the developing World Health Organization controversy, a day after WHO officials said Chinese scientists "refused" to hand over the key raw data on 174 of the country's first cases - which marked the first in the world to what would emerge as a global pandemic - during the recent WHO trip to uncover its origins.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Saturday morning that the allegations have caused "deep concerns" in the Biden administration suggesting China may still be engaged in a cover-up given their alleged unwillingness to cooperation.
"We have deep concerns about the way in which the early findings of the COVID-19 investigation were communicated and questions about the process used to reach them," Sullivan said. "It is imperative that this report be independent, with expert findings free from intervention or alteration by the Chinese government."
Crucially he demanded that Chinese authorities hand over this data, which The Wall Street Journal on Friday described as subjected of "heated exchanges" over the "lack of transparency."
"To better understand this pandemic and prepare for the next one, China must make available its data from the earliest days of the outbreak," Sullivan said.
Yet despite the criticisms he still attempted to distance Biden's policy from that of Trump's - the latter which stymied official US cooperation with the WHO, seeing the organization as ultimately too much under the thumb of Beijing.
"President Biden rejected and reversed the Trump Administration’s decision to disengage from the WHO,” Sullivan said. "But re-engaging the WHO also means holding it to the highest standards. And at this critical moment, protecting the WHO’s credibility is a paramount priority."
"Going forward, all countries, including China, should participate in a transparent and robust process for preventing and responding to health emergencies — so that the world learns as much as possible as soon as possible."
But as Australian microbiologist and WHO team member Dominic Dwyer said on Friday in comments given to the WSJ, "They showed us a couple of examples, but that’s not the same as doing all of them, which is standard epidemiological investigation." Speaking further of the Chinese scientists that coordinated the trip, he added, "So then, you know, the interpretation of that data becomes more limited from our point of view, although the other side might see it as being quite good."
Meanwhile, the WHO on Friday said it still hasn't ruled out any cause, with WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in his latest statement seeking to distance the team's findings from reaching any definitive conclusion on the virus' origin.