President Donald Trump warned on Saturday that China would face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for allowing coronavirus to spread.
During a White House coronavirus press briefing on Saturday, a reporter asked Trump if he would impose consequences against China if they were “responsible” for the virus. Trump said he would raise consequences if China is found to be “knowingly responsible.”
“If they were knowingly responsible, certainly. If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake,” Trump said. “But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, then there should be consequences.”
Trump added “I haven’t ruled out anything, I want to look at the facts as they come in.”
He delivered his critical remarks amid growing indications the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, began at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and that China initially concealed information about the extent and severity of the disease’ spread.
Later on in the press briefing Trump was asked for comment about his relationship with China, at which moment he mentioned the U.S. relationship with China had been improving prior to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Our relationship with China was good until they did this. Once we found out about this — once we found out — look, we just made a trade deal where China is going to have to buy $250 billion a year on our product. Fifty billion from the farmers,” Trump said. Forty to fifty billion from the farmers. The relationship was good when we were signing that, but then all of a sudden, you hear about this.”
Trump alluded to the first phase of a U.S.-China trade deal, which he signed into effect on Jan. 15. At the time, little information was known about the virus and cases had not yet been confirmed in the U.S.
Trump continued in his remarks, “You know, the question was asked, ‘Would you be angry at China?’ Well, the answer might very well be a very resounding ‘yes,’ but it depends: Was it a mistake that got out of control or was it done deliberately? Okay? That’s a big difference between those two. In either event, they should have let us go in. You know, we asked to go in very early, and they didn’t want us in. I think they were embarrassed. I think they knew it was something bad, and I think they were embarrassed.”
Republican allies of the president have proposed a variety of methods for holding the Chinese government to account over allegations it hid the severity of the virus. Some have proposed legislation to allow lawsuits against the Chinese government to proceed, while others have proposed adding new economic sanctions and canceling U.S. debts owed to China.
Beyond claims it hid information about the coronavirus outbreak from the world, Chinese outlets have also been observed fueling claims, without evidence, that the virus actually originated in the U.S.