China's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, voiced strong dissatisfaction Friday to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken over the theory that the novel coronavirus may have accidentally leaked from a laboratory in China's central city of Wuhan, according to state-run media.
The theory, previously pushed by the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump, has recently gained renewed attention, with his successor Joe Biden asking the intelligence community to "redouble" its efforts to investigate the source of the virus.
China "firmly opposes any abominable action that uses the epidemic to slander" the country, Yang was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as telling Blinken during their telephone conversation on Friday.
"Some people in the United States fabricated and spread such an absurd story," said Yang, a former foreign minister who is now a state councilor, urging Washington to respect facts and science as well as refrain from politicizing the virus.
The Trump administration promoted the theory that the virus may be traced back to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, claiming some researchers there developed symptoms consistent with COVID-19 in the fall of 2019.
China has argued that a joint study by the World Health Organization and China on the origin concluded it is extremely unlikely that the virus escaped from the laboratory.
Blinken called on China to accept a second round of investigation by the WHO, the U.S. State Department said.
As for Taiwan, Yang repeated the nation's mantra that there is only "one China" in the world and the island is an "inalienable part" of the country, while vowing to take measures to "unswervingly" defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Yang and Blinken talked before the opening Friday of the Group of Seven summit in Britain, where leaders from democratic industrialized nations are expected to discuss how to grapple with China's increasing assertiveness in the security and economic fields.
Communist-led China and democratic Taiwan have been separately governed since they split in 1949 as a result of a civil war. Their relationship has deteriorated under independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen, who has served as Taiwan's president since 2016.
China regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunited with the mainland by force if necessary.
The United States switched its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to mainland China in 1979. Washington, however, remains committed to unofficial relations with Taipei. It has continued to assist the island in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability.
During their phone talks, Blinken requested Beijing to "cease its pressure campaign against Taiwan," while expressing concern over China's alleged human rights abuses against the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, the department said.
The top diplomats also discussed the United States' renewed comprehensive policy against nuclear-armed North Korea and confirmed that Washington and Beijing will "work together for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," it added.
In late March, Yang and Blinken met in Alaska for the first high-level in-person meeting between the two countries since the change in U.S. administration in January.