Deborah Haynes, foreign affairs editor
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China is ready to let international investigators visit the city of Wuhan as part of an inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic but only when the time is right, the country’s ambassador to the UK has told Sky News.
Liu Xiaoming defended his country against a barrage of attacks from President Donald Trump over its handling of the health emergency.
He insisted there had been no cover-up by the authorities since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Wuhan in December.
The senior diplomat also denied allegations by US intelligence agencies that China-linked hacking groups had been targeting US medical research institutes looking into coronavirus vaccines.
“There is not any cover-up up at all,” Ambassador Liu told Sky News presenter Mark Austin.
“We shared information with the WHO (World Health Organisation) and the world without delay and we notified the United States from the very beginning on 13 January.”
President Trump has repeatedly accused China of hiding information on the virus during the early days.
He has also claimed to have evidence the disease leaked accidentally from a laboratory in Wuhan that is known to have conducted research into coronaviruses in bats.
Beijing has dismissed the allegations as smears and disinformation.
Ambassador Liu said his country would be open to an international investigation headed by the World Health Organisation coming to China, including Wuhan, provided that it was not “politically motivated”.
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“We are open, we are transparent, we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear,” he said.
“We welcome an international independent review but it has to be organised by the WHO. It should be international.”
Asked if Beijing would give access to international scientists, the diplomat said: “Yes of course at an appropriate time but not now.”
He said at the moment the world should focus on the global hunt for a vaccine.
But the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security this week accused China-linked “cyber actors” of targeting US organisations doing research into vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.
Ambassador Liu asked what the evidence was.
“This is not the first time that the US made such a fabrication and a false accusations against China,” he said.
“This is not only their efforts to undermine the international collaboration to work together to find vaccine, I think vaccine will be the final solution to the problem.”
He underlined how Britain and China are working together to combat the virus.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is due to speak to his Chinese counterpart along with British and Chinese scientists on Friday to swap notes, the ambassador said.
“We need to enhance collaboration. This virus is our common enemy. We should come to the aid of each other to win the final battle.”
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