WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump says he claims that China’s handling of the coronavirus is evidence that Beijing will “do whatever it can” to make him lose his November re-election campaign.
In an interview at the Oval Office with Reuters, Trump spoke tough on China and said he was looking at various options in terms of Beijing’s repercussions over the virus. “I can do a lot,” he said.
Trump blamed China for a global pandemic that, according to a Reuters report, killed at least 60,000 people in the U.S. and plunged the U.S. economy into a deep recession, placing his hopes for another four-year term at risk.
Sometimes accused of not intervening early enough to brace the United States for the spread of the virus, the Republican president said he believed China should have been more involved in letting the world know about the coronavirus much earlier.
Asked if he was considering using tariffs or even write-offs on debt for China, Trump would not be giving details. “There are many things I can do,” he said. “We’re looking for what happened.”
“China will do anything they can to have me lose this race,” said Trump.
He said he thinks Beijing wants to win the race by his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, to ease the strain Trump has put on China over trade and other problems.
“They’re constantly using public relations to try to make it like they’re innocent parties,” he said of Chinese officials.
A senior Trump administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday that an informal “truce” in the war of words that Trump and Xi essentially agreed in a late March phone call now seemed to be over.
The two leaders had vowed their governments would do whatever they can to work to suppress the coronavirus. In recent days, Washington and Beijing have been exchanging ever more bitter recriminations about the origin and response to the virus.
However, while stepping up their anti-China rhetoric, Trump and his top aides have stopped short of directly attacking Xi, whom the US president has repeatedly called his “friend.”