Donald Trump says China will be held ‘accountable’ for coronavirus
Donald Trump says China will be held “accountable” for the coronavirus pandemic and that the US is “doing a very serious investigation” into the origins of the outbreak, suggesting it could have been “something other than incompetence”.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House on Monday, the US President referenced China around half a dozen times in various answers as he talked up his administration’s efforts to expand COVID-19 testing and reopen the economy.
In several asides during his remarks, Mr Trump repeatedly suggested that China could have prevented outbreak, saying there had been “so much unnecessary death in this country”.
“It could have been stopped and it could have been stopped short,” he said. “The whole world is suffering because of it.”
Asked how China would be held accountable, Mr Trump said “there are a lot of ways you can hold them accountable”.
“We’re doing a very serious investigation,” he said.
“We are not happy with China, we are not happy with that whole situation. We believe it could have been stopped at the source and it wouldn’t have spread all over the world. We’ll let you know at the appropriate time.”
Western intelligence agencies are investigating the origins of the coronavirus outbreak, with attention focused a controversial virus research facility in the epicentre of Wuhan.
The Daily Telegraph reported today that two Chinese scientists being looked into by intelligence agencies studied live bats in Australia in research jointly funded by the Australian and Chinese governments.
“Nobody’s blaming anybody here,” Mr Trump told reporters. “We’re looking at a group of people that should have stopped it at the source.”
Addressing dire economic predictions, Mr Trump said he “built the greatest economy, with the help of 325 million people, I built the greatest economy in the history of the world” and then “one day because of something that should never have been allowed to happen we had to close our economy”.
“We’ll never forget loved ones, these great people that (were) sacrificed for a reason of incompetence or something else other than incompetence at a point where they could have protected the whole world – not just the US, the whole world,” he said.
In Germany, the country’s largest tabloid newspaper Bild last week put together a “bill” for China of 130 billion euros ($220 billion) for the economic damage caused by the pandemic.
It’s one of a growing number of countries to raise the issue of reparations from China.
“We can do something much easier than that, we have ways of doing things a lot easier,” Mr Trump said.
“Germany is looking at things, we’re looking at things. We haven’t determined the final number – it’s very substantial. This is worldwide damage.”
He indicated the US would further seek to decouple China from global supply chains, particularly in key areas such as medical supplies.
“If you look, prior to this virus the (trade) deficit was coming way down (due to) tariffs,” he said.
“Tens of billions of dollars (in tariffs), I gave some of it to the farmers who were targeted by China. I helped farmers by giving them $12 billion all coming from China, the following year $16 billion, this year we’re also going to help our farmers.”
With nearly 990,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the US, more than four times as many as number two Spain, Mr Trump said the US was “lapping the world on testing” and raised doubts about other countries’ numbers – but again singled out China.
“I can only say what we’re doing,” he said.
“We’re reporting very accurately, you look at other countries, other countries are not – look at China.”