President Donald Trump took a harsher tone towards China during a White House press conference late Saturday, even going to far as to suggest that the Asian powerhouse nation was “knowingly responsible” for spreading coronavirus and noting that there could be “consequences” once the United States completes their investigation of how the virus crossed Chinese borders.
“It could have been stopped in China before it started and it wasn’t, and the whole world is suffering because of it,” Trump said, referring to the origins of coronavirus.
“If they were knowingly responsible, certainly,” he added. “If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake. But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, then there should be consequences.”
Trump did not specify what those “consequences” might be, but the United Kingdom, also stricken by the coronavirus pandemic, has been contemplating economic sanctions against China for weeks. Officials in the U.K. believe that China delibertately underrepresented the number of coronavirus-related deaths that took place in Wuhan, potentially “by a factor of 15 to 40 times,” per Business Insider.
The U.K. also echoes the United States’ concerns that China tried to hide the extent of the pandemic within its borders by hiding and obscuring pertinent information.
“It was the case … [that] the first case of coronavirus in China was established in December of last year, but it was also the case that some of the reporting from China was not clear about the scale, the nature, the infectiousness of this,” one official told BI.
The United States believes the World Health Organization, responding to requests from the Chinese government, helped to spread Chinese propaganda about the virus, denying, even in late January, that the virus could be spread from person to person. Last week, the White House announced an investigation into the WHO and raised the possibility of revoking funding from the United Nations-controlled health group.
The extent of Chinese involvement in concealing the realities of coronavirus came to the forefront last week. Fox News reported, last Wednesday, that American intelligence agencies are now looking into the possibility that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could have leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan that was experimenting with identifying and controlling potentially deadly diseases.
A second report raised concerns that China restricted travel within its borders well before it cut off international travel, suggesting that China may have been knowingly infecting other countries even as it struggled to contain the virus at home.
Vice President Mike Pence echoed the president’s concerns during an appearance on Fox News Sunday.
“It is clear to us that not only was there a failure by the World Health Organization to communicate to America and the world what was happening in China, but also that China was not as forthcoming as they should have been,” the vice president said.
Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the leaders of the president’s coronavirus task force, also backed up the president, telling reporters Sunday that China had a “moral obligation” to inform the rest of the world of what it knew about the novel coronavirus.