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Blinken Punts On Punishing China For Coronavirus Outbreak

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday declined to say whether China should face repercussions over its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic that contributed to its global spread.

When pressed by CNN’s Dana Bash during an interview on whether the country should face punitive measures, Blinken said there needed to be “accountability” but didn’t elaborate on what measures needed to be taken. Instead, the nation’s top diplomat stressed that the focus should be on “building a stronger system for the future” that would mitigate against future outbreaks.

“I think the issue for us is to make sure that we do everything possible to prevent another pandemic, even as we’re working through this one, or at the very least to make sure that we can mitigate in much more effective ways any damage done if something happens in the future,” Blinken said on “State of the Union.” “And a big part of that is making sure that we have a system in place, including with the World Health Organization, that features transparency, that features information-sharing, and features access for international experts at the start of something like this.”

Blinken previously accused China of not meeting international obligations to provide information about the origins of the virus that has resulted in the deaths of millions of people worldwide, including nearly 550,000 in the U.S.

“There’s no doubt that especially when Covid-19 first hit, but even today, China is falling far short of the mark when it comes to providing the information necessary to the international community, making sure that experts have access to China,” Blinken said during an interview with NBC in February. “All of that lack of transparency, that lack of being forthcoming, is a profound problem.”

Blinken’s comments are a notable break from his predecessor, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who routinely disparaged China over the coronavirus, saying he believed the world would make the country “pay a price” for the pandemic and suggesting that there was evidence that the virus emerged from a Chinese lab.

Pompeo’s theory was publicly supported by Robert Redfield, former President Donald Trump’s director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an interview on Friday that contradicted public health experts and U.S. intelligence agencies assessment on the origins of the virus.

“It’s not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in a laboratory to infect the laboratory worker,” Redfield said. “That’s my own view. It’s only an opinion. I’m allowed to have opinions now.”

Blinken, who spoke from Brussels after meeting with NATO and European Union officials, emphasized the importance of the U.S. working with allies on issues posed by China.

“There are clearly and increasingly adversarial aspects of the relationship. There are certainly competitive ones. There are also still some cooperative ones,” Blinken said about American relations with China. “But the common denominator is the need to approach China from a position of strength, whether it’s adversarial, whether it’s competitive, whether it’s cooperative.”

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