May 6 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed China for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide from the coronavirus on Wednesday and renewed demands for the Asian nation to reveal what it knows about COVID-19.
In a press availability at the State Department, the United States' top diplomat continued to build his case against China, charging it with arresting doctors during the initial stages of the outbreak late last year, destroying virus samples in early January and continuing to refuse to share what information it has about the virus, such as who was the so-called patient zero.
"They knew. China could have prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. China could have spared the world a descent into global economic malaise. They had a choice. But instead, China covered up the outbreak in Wuhan, China," he said. "... China is still refusing to share the information we need to keep people safe."
The coronavirus that emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December has since spread the world over, infecting more than 3.7 million people, killing more than 260,000 of them.
Since then, the United States has become the virus' epicenter, with more than 1.2 million infections and 73,000 deaths, making it by far the worst-affected nation.
The United States has consistently leveled criticism at China for covering up the outbreak -- allegations that China has vehemently denied and that critics say are a political tactic the Trump administration is employing to obfuscate its own response to the outbreak.
On Wednesday, Pompeo denied accusations demands for transparency are about politics, stating health officials require that information "to save American lives."
"We need countries to share reliable data in a timely way -- now, and the next time that a calamity like this hits," he said. "We need reliable partners."
When confronted over seemingly disparate statements made by himself and other Trump administration officials over the origin of the virus, Pompeo said there is no division, they are consistent in that they are all essentially about having a lack of information from China.
Pompeo on Sunday said there is "a significant amount of evidence" the virus came from a Wuhan laboratory, which has seemingly been countered by other officials, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley who said "we don't know" exactly where the virus emerged but various agencies "are looking at that."
Pompeo retorted "that's all consistent" in a heated conversation with a reporter.
"Every one of those statements is entirely consistent," he said. "Every one of them. Lay them down together, there's no separation. We're all trying to figure out the right answer, we're all trying to get to clarity."
He said Fauci, Milley, President Donald Trump and himself know where the answers they seek are, and focus should be on China.
"The American people remain at risk because we do not know, we don't have certainty about whether it began in the lab or whether it began someplace else," he said. "There's an easy way to find out the answer to that: transparency, openness, the kinds of things that nations do when they really want to be part of solving a global pandemic."
Pompeo also called on the international community to support Taiwan's request to participate in the upcoming World Health Organization's forum.
Taiwan's participation is to be discussed by the organization in mid-may after two countries formally tendered proposals requesting it to be included.
"Today, I want to call upon all nations, including those in Europe, to support Taiwan's participation as an observer at the World Health Assembly and in other relevant United Nations venues," he said. "I also call upon WHO Director-General Tedros [Adhanom Ghebreyesus] to invite Taiwan to observe this month's WHA, as he has the power to do, and as his predecessors have done on multiple occasions."