BY CHRISTINA ZHAO , Newsweek
The Chinese Communist Party on Thursday urged President Donald Trump to focus on battling the coronavirus outbreak as the U.S. began exploring plans for punishing China for its handling of the pandemic.
As U.S. politicians continue to criticize Beijing’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Trump said today that he has seen evidence that gives him a high degree of confidence that the coronavirus originated from a lab in Wuhan. The president’s comments came hours after U.S. intelligence officials confirmed that they were exploring the possibility that the novel disease leaked from a Wuhan lab, confirming Newsweek‘s earlier reporting on the matter.
Chinese officials, who have denied the allegation, criticized Trump for allegedly attempting to “shift their own responsibility for the poor handling of the epidemic to others” and urged him to focus on containing the outbreak domestically. During a daily briefing today, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told reporters, “The U.S. should know this: The enemy is the virus, not China.”
Shuang also denied Trump’s recent assertion that Beijing was attempting to use the pandemic to obstruct his reelection efforts. “The U.S. presidential election is an internal affair, we have no interest in interfering in it,” he said. “We hope the people of the U.S. will not drag China into its election politics.”
Four senior Trump administration officials told the Washington Post today that officials have started exploring various punishments for China’s allegedly poor handling of the outbreak. The report revealed that some officials have suggested the federal government should wipe some of its debt obligations to the mainland. Trump also threatened the use of tariffs as retaliation when asked to comment on Thursday.
On March 26, the U.S. became the country with the highest number of coronavirus cases with more than 82,400 cases, surpassing the then-81,700 cases held by China, the previous leader. As of April 30, America remains the country with the most cases, now with over 1,094,700 confirmed cases and 63,800 deaths caused by the novel disease. Beijing’s figures have only increased to 82,800.
However, many people, including U.S. politicians, have accused China of under playing its real coronavirus figures. Their skepticism were sparked by Beijing’s attempts to cover up the severity of the outbreak in the early stages, before the coronavirus became widespread overseas, as well as their lack of transparency in the numerous revisions made to how cases are counted domestically.
China has repeatedly defended their handling of the virus and pushed back against claims that it may have originated from inside the Wuhan’s virology lab, which say inadequate safety protocols could have led to an accidental release of the pathogen.
The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Thursday maintained their previous position regarding the absence of human intervention pertaining to the origins of COVID-19 but noted that the source of the outbreak will require further examination.
“The entire Intelligence Community has been consistently providing critical support to U.S. policymakers and those responding to the COVID-19 virus,” the office’s statement read. “The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified.”
Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment. This story will be updated with any response.