WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that China could have stopped the coronavirus before it swept the globe and that his administration was conducting “serious investigations” into what happened.
Trump’s criticism was the latest from his administration to target China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which emerged late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has grown into a global pandemic.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States “strongly believed” Beijing failed to report the outbreak in a timely manner and covered up how dangerous the respiratory illness caused by the virus was.
“We’re doing very serious investigations… We are not happy with China,” Trump said at a White House briefing. “There are a lot of ways you can hold them accountable.
“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.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing that some U.S. politicians were lying to deflect attention from their insufficient response to the virus at home. He did not specifically refer to Trump or Pompeo.
“Attempts to shift the blame on China will not denigrate China’s efforts in responding to the virus,” Geng said.
The coronavirus outbreak has killed more than 210,000 people around the world, including more than 56,000 in the United States, according to a Reuters tally.
Earlier on Monday, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro accused China of sending low-quality and counterfeit coronavirus antibody testing kits to the United States and of “profiteering” from the pandemic.
Navarro, an outspoken critic of Beijing whom Trump has appointed to work on supply-line issues relating to the crisis, said more testing both for the virus and antibodies was vital to getting Americans currently in lockdown back to work.
“That’s where, perhaps, we can find people who are immune, that can be in the workplace in a more safe environment. But we can’t have China, for example, bringing in those fake tests and counterfeit tests, because that’s going to be very disruptive,” Navarro said in an interview on Fox News.
“There’s a lot of these antibody tests coming in from China now that are low quality, false readings and things like that,” he said.
Asked about Navarro’s comments, Geng said that the White House adviser was a habitual liar with no credibility, in line with previous comments by China.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; additional reporting by Cate Cadell in Beijing; Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Chris Reese and Sonya Hepinstall)