Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo
By LARA SELIGMAN
The top U.S. general said evidence that the coronavirus originated at a Chinese research lab is "inconclusive," following a report that U.S. officials warned of safety concerns at a research facility in the city of Wuhan two years ago.
"We've had a lot of intelligence take a hard look at that," Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told reporters Tuesday. "At this point it's inconclusive, although the weight of the evidence seems to indicate natural. But we don’t know for certain."
The comments come hours after The Washington Post reported that U.S. officials were concerned about inadequate safety at a Wuhan lab that was conducting studies on coronavirus from bats. According to the Post, U.S. officials who had visited the lab dispatched diplomatic cables in January 2018 back to Washington warning about safety and management weaknesses at the lab, and also that the facility's work on bat coronaviruses represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic.
Milley's assessment contrasts with that of Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, who shot down the idea that the virus originated in a laboratory as part of experiments involving bioweapons.
"And if I could just be clear, there is nothing to that," Friedrichs, the Joint Staff surgeon, said on April 6. "Someone asked me if I was worried. That is not something that I'm worried about. I think, you know, right now what we're concerned about is how do we treat people who are sick, how do we prevent people from getting sick. But no, I am not worried about this as a bioweapon."