US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns on Monday said Washington must push Beijing to be more honest about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Burns, speaking by video link at a US Chamber of Commerce event, said the United States would need to push China to take a more active role in the World Health Organization (WHO) if it wants to strengthen the United Nations' health agency.
"And (of) course, be more honest about what happened three years ago in Wuhan with the origin of the COVID-19 crisis," Burns said, referring to the central Chinese city where the first human cases were reported in December 2019.
Burns' comments come after the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that the US Energy Department had concluded the pandemic likely arose from a Chinese laboratory leak, an assessment Beijing denies.
The Energy Department made its judgment with "low confidence" in a classified intelligence report recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress, the Journal said, citing people who had read the intelligence report.
Also read: CIA chief says US 'confident' China mulling arms for Russia
The Energy Department declined to comment. US President Joe Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said on Sunday there were a "variety of views in the intelligence community" on the pandemic's origins.
"A number of them have said they just don't have enough information," Sullivan told CNN. Four other US agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still judge that COVID-19 was likely the result of natural transmission, while two are undecided, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Asked to comment on the Wall Street Journal report, which was confirmed by other US media, China's foreign ministry referred to a WHO-China report that pointed toward a natural origin for the pandemic, likely from bats, rather than a lab leak.
"Certain parties should stop rehashing the 'lab leak' narrative, stop smearing China and stop politicizing the origins-tracing issue," foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.