(USA Features) U.S. intelligence agencies are currently investigating whether the coronavirus may have escaped from a Chinese lab in Wuhan city where research is done on highly contagious diseases, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley told reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday that initial information indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be a “natural” event that stemmed from animal-to-human transmission.
But he also noted published reports indicating that the virus may have occurred after escaping a research lab.
“It should be no surprise that we’ve taken a keen interest in that and we’ve had a lot of intelligence [agencies] take a hard look at that,” Milley said.
“I would just say at this point it’s inconclusive although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural. But we don’t know for certain,” he added.
Milley’s comments are the first by a senior government official speculating publicly about reports that the virus may have come from a Chinese laboratory.
The four-star general’s comments come after U.S. intelligence agencies noted earlier this month in reports to the Trump administration that it is likely China has vastly understated the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the country.
In February, GOP Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas — a former U.S. Army infantry officer and Iraq war vet — hinted that the virus may have originated in a Chinese lab, though he was heavily criticized for it.
“A few miles away from that food market is China’s only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases,” Cotton told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo.
“Now, we don’t have evidence that this disease originated there, but because of China’s duplicity and dishonesty from the beginning, we need to at least ask the question to see what the evidence says,” he added.