US President Donald Trump has threatened China with new tariffs amid the coronavirus outbreak he blames Beijing for.
Trump said Thursday his ongoing trade deal negotiations with the Asian country were now of secondary importance to the virus pandemic as his administration crafted retaliatory measures over the outbreak.
“We signed a trade deal where they’re supposed to buy, and they’ve been buying a lot, actually. But that now becomes secondary to what took place with the virus,” Trump told reporters. “The virus situation is just not acceptable.”
Currently, a range of options were being discussed against China, Reuters cited two US officials as saying, noting that they cautioned that efforts were in the early stages.
According to one official, Trump’s top national security team or the president have not yet been informed of the recommendations.
“There is a discussion as to how hard to hit China and how to calibrate it properly,” one of the sources said. Trump also told reporters that he was confident the coronavirus might have originated in a Chinese virology lab, but refused to describe the evidence.
When asked if he had seen evidence that gave him a “high degree of confidence” the virus came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, he said, “Yes, yes I have.”
He, however, declined to give specifics, saying, “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”
“There’s a lot of theories,” he said, “but we have people looking at it very, very strongly. Scientific people, intelligence people and others.”
The Chinese institute has dismissed the allegations and other US officials have played down their likelihood.
His remarks come as the US intelligence community concluded Thursday that the novel coronavirus originated in China but was not man-made or engineered.
“The entire Intelligence Community has been consistently providing critical support to US policymakers and those responding to the COVID-19 virus, which originated in China,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement.
According to The New York Times, senior figures in the Trump administration have put pressure on US intelligence agencies to provide evidence to substantiate claims that the virus outbreak originated in state-run laboratories in China.
Meanwhile, most experts believe the virus originated in a market selling wildlife in Wuhan and was transmitted from animals to people.