President Biden pushed back on the assertion that he and Chinese Xi Jinping were “old friends” at a press conference on Wednesday, arguing that the international community was questioning Beijing’s commitment to a transparent investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy pressed Biden on whether he’d pressure China following the president’s summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Geneva. Biden has made frequent references to his long-standing relationship with Xi dating back to the Obama administration.
“You’ve spoken many times about how you have spent, perhaps, more time with President Xi than any other world leader,” Doocy asked the president. “Is there going to come a time when you might call him, old friend to old friend, and ask him to open up China to the World Health Organization investigators who are trying to get to the bottom of COVID-19?”
“Let’s get something straight: we know each other well, we’re not old friends,” Biden said. “It’s just pure business.”
Biden met with Xi several times when he was vice president. He has claimed on multiple occasions that he has “traveled 17,000 miles” with Xi and developed a rapport with him.
PUTIN SAYS ‘NO HOSTILITY’ IN BIDEN MEETING, TWO SIDES AGREE TO RETURN AMBASSADORS
Lawmakers have called on Biden to pressure China over its handling of the pandemic amid mounting calls for further investigation of the theory that COVID-19 may have originated through a lab accident in Wuhan.
Last month, the president said intelligence officials “coalesced” around theories that the pandemic originated through a lab accident or through human contact with infected animals, but had yet to reach a definitive conclusion. He directed the U.S. intelligence community to conduct further investigation and report on its findings within 90 days.
U.S. and international officials have also questioned the findings of a joint report by China and the World Health Organization, which concluded in March that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely.”
Doocy asked Biden what would happen if Beijing continued to resist international calls to allow a transparent investigation within its borders regarding the pandemic’s origin.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
“China’s trying very hard to project itself as a responsible and very, very forthcoming nation,” Biden said. “They are trying very, very hard to talk about how they’re helping the world in terms of COVID-19 and vaccines and they’re trying very hard. Look, certain things you don’t have to explain to the people of the world. They see the results. Is China really, actually trying to get to the bottom of this?”
“One thing we did discuss, as I told you in the EU and at the G-7 and with NATO: what we should be doing and what I’m going to try to make an effort to do is rally the world to work on what is going to be the physical mechanism available to detect early on the next pandemic and have a mechanism by which we can respond to it and respond to it early,” he added. “It’s going to happen and we need to do that.”