US President Donald Trump threatened China with tariffs on Thursday and said he had seen evidence that allowed him to claim with a high degree of confidence that the new coronavirus originated in a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, something Beijing denies.
Trump made those statements at a White House press conference in which a journalist asked him if he planned to cancel part of his debt obligations to Beijing to punish the Asian giant for its management of the pandemic, as published Thursday by The Washington Post.
“We can do it in other ways, we can do it with tariffs, we can do it in other ways even beyond that, without having to play that game,” the president responded without offering more details about the possibility of punishment.
According to The Washington Post, which quotes four U.S. administration officials, a meeting of officials from several government agencies, including some in Intelligence, was scheduled for Thursday to strategize on retaliation against China.
At the press conference, Trump again blamed the Chinese government for the virus, and, in an escalation of tone, said that Beijing could have stopped it but chose to let it spread around the world.
“They could have stopped it, they [China] are a very brilliant nation, scientifically and otherwise. It got away, let’s say that, and they could have kept it, they could have stopped it, but they didn’t,” the U.S. president said.
In addition, he said he has evidence that allows him to claim that the source of SARS-CoV-2 is a laboratory in the city of Wuhan, where the first cases were detected and was the origin of the current pandemic.