Newsweek reports that the CIA believes China tried to prevent the World Health Organization from sounding the alarm on the coronavirus outbreak in January—a time when Beijing was stockpiling medical supplies from around the world.
A CIA report, the contents of which were confirmed to Newsweek by two U.S. intelligence officials, said China threatened the WHO that the country would stop cooperating with the agency’s coronavirus investigation if the organization declared a global health emergency.
It was the second such report from a Western intelligence service and is likely to further inflame tensions between the United States and China over a pandemic that has killed 280,000 people worldwide—more than a quarter of them American.
The first report, a German intelligence assessment published by Der Spiegel last week, accused Chinese President Xi Jinping of personally applying pressure on WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on January 21.
The WHO dismissed the notion that Xi himself intervened, but declined to address specifically the question of whether Chinese officials made any effort to delay or change the announcement of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
When the WHO declared a public health emergency on January 30, it went to great lengths to say that China had done nothing wrong, an approach that sparked some anger in the West and prompted President Donald Trump to criticize the world health body as “China-centric” before he suspended funding in March.
The timeline of the CIA document, called “U.N.-China: WHO Mindful But Not Beholden to China,” and the German report dovetail with another analysis conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that said China suppressed information about the outbreak in January so it could hoard medical supplies from around the world. That analysis, first reported by the AP, was dismissed as “groundless” by the Chinese Embassy in Washington in a statement to Newsweek.
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