China Furious as Trump Threatens to Seek Damages for Virus

Trump’s threat to demand damages from China for the virus pandemic prompted Beijing to tell the United States to look to its own problems.

Sculptures stand outside an art gallery in Beijing on Tuesday. China has reported no new deaths from the novel coronavirus for 13 straight days. (AP photo/Andy Wong)

WASHINGTON (AFP) — President Trump suggested he may seek damages from China for the coronavirus pandemic, prompting a furious response from Beijing on Tuesday.

Beijing and Washington have clashed repeatedly over the outbreak as tensions have soared between the world’s two biggest economies.

“We are not happy with China,” Trump said at a White House briefing Monday. “We are not happy with that whole situation because we believe it could have been stopped at the source.

“It could have been stopped quickly and it wouldn’t have spread all over the world,” he said, adding that there were many options to “hold them accountable”.

Trump was asked about a recent German newspaper editorial that called on China to pay Germany $165 billion in reparations because of economic damage due to the virus.

Asked if the United States would consider doing the same, Trump said, “We can do something much easier than that.

“Germany is looking at things, we are looking at things,” he said. “We haven’t determined the final amount yet.”

In Beijing, a foreign ministry spokesman on Tuesday accused U.S. politicians of “telling barefaced lies,” without naming Trump specifically, and of ignoring their “own serious problems.”

“American politicians have repeatedly ignored the truth and have been telling barefaced lies,” Geng Shuang told reporters at a regular press briefing.

“They have only one objective: Shirk their responsibility for their own poor epidemic prevention and control measures, and divert public attention.”

Geng said U.S. politicians should “reflect on their own problems and find ways to contain the outbreak as quickly as possible.”

There have been more than 1 million confirmed infections and more than 56,800 coronavirus-related deaths in the United States and the pandemic has shut down huge swaths of the economy.

In China, the outbreak seems to be under control with no new deaths reported for 13 straight days and the toll standing at 4,633 — although several countries have cast doubt on whether the numbers are accurate.

Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo angered Beijing in March by repeatedly referring to “the Chinese virus” when discussing the Covid-19 outbreak.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing later suggested that it was the U.S. military which brought the virus to Wuhan, prompting angry claims from Trump that China was spreading misinformation.

Since then Trump has repeatedly attacked China’s lack of transparency and the slowness of its initial response to the outbreak.

Claims from the United States that the virus originated in a virology institute in Wuhan with a high-security biosafety laboratory have also been angrily rebutted in China.

© Agence France-Presse

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