Leak is “most credible” theory about origin of coronavirus, deputy national security adviser says
- Donald Trump’s Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger spoke
- Mr Pottinger told politicians leak is emerging as ‘most credible source’ of virus
- He claimed the pathogen may have escaped through a ‘leak or an accident’
One of America’s most senior government officials says the most ‘credible’ theory about the origin of coronavirus is that it escaped from a laboratory in China.
Matthew Pottinger, who is President Donald Trump’s respected Deputy National Security Adviser, told politicians from around the world that even China’s leaders now openly admit their previous claims that the virus originated in a Wuhan market are false.
Mr Pottinger said that the latest intelligence points to the virus leaking from the top-secret Wuhan Institute of Virology, 11 miles from the market, saying: ‘There is a growing body of evidence that the lab is likely the most credible source of the virus.’
He claimed the pathogen may have escaped through a ‘leak or an accident’, adding: ‘Even establishment figures in Beijing have openly dismissed the wet market story.’
The comments, which were made during a Zoom conference with MPs on China last week, come as a team of experts from the World Health Organisation prepare to fly to Wuhan to investigate how the pandemic began.
Critics fear the probe will be a whitewash given China’s influence on the WHO.
‘MPs around the world have a moral role to play in exposing the WHO investigation as a Potemkin exercise,’ Mr Pottinger told the parliamentarians, in reference to the fake villages created in the Crimea in the 18th Century, intended to convince the visiting Russian Empress Catherine the Great that the region was in good health.
Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory Party leader who attended the meeting, said Mr Pottinger’s comments represented a ‘stiffening’ of the US position on the theory that the virus came from a leak at the laboratory, amid reports that the Americans are talking to a whistleblower from the Wuhan institute.
I was told the US have an ex-scientist from the laboratory in America at the moment,’ he said. ‘That was what I heard a few weeks ago.
‘I was led to believe this is how they have been able to stiffen up their position on how this outbreak originated.’
He added that Beijing’s refusal to allow journalists to visit the laboratory only served to increase suspicion that it was ‘ground zero’ for the pandemic.
‘The truth is there are people who have been in those labs who maintain that this is the case,’ he said.
‘We don’t know what they have been doing in that laboratory.
‘They may well have been fiddling with bat coronaviruses and looking at them and they made a mistake. I’ve spoken to various people who believe that to be the case.
Sam Armstrong, communications director at the Henry Jackson Society foreign policy think-tank, said: ‘With such a senior and respected intelligence official speaking in support of this claim, the time has come for the British Government to seek both answers about and compensation for Covid-19.’
Mr Pottinger, who speaks fluent Mandarin, previously worked as a journalist for Reuters and The Wall Street Journal, including seven years as its China correspondent.
In 2005, he became a US marine and served as a military intelligence officer before being asked to join the US National Security Council in 2017, becoming Asia director before assuming his current role.
His older brother, Paul, is a virologist at the University of Washington.
President Trump last year accused the WHO of being a ‘puppet of China’ and withdrew funding.
The visit to Wuhan by the WHO team is already mired in controversy after it published terms of reference revealing it will not investigate the Wuhan institute – the only laboratory in China with the highest international bio-security grading – as a possible source of Covid-19.