U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday his hard-fought trade deal with China was now of secondary importance to the coronavirus pandemic and he threatened new tariffs on Beijing, as his administration crafted retaliatory measures over the outbreak.
"Yes, I have. Yes, I have", Trump told reporters at the East Room of the White House when asked if he has seen anything at this point that gives him a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology is where the virus originated. But he did not disclose any details, saying, "I'm not allowed to tell you that".
It was the first clear response from American intelligence debunking conspiracy theories - both from the USA and China - that the virus is a biological weapon. The Chinese government said on Thursday that any claim that the virus was released from Wuhan's laboratory was "unfounded and purely manufactured from scratch".
"But we're going to find out".
FILE - This photo taken March 10, 2020, shows a medical staff member holding samples from patients infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus before a nucleic acid test at Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology is located about 30 kilometers from a seafood market where the virus is believed to have started its rapid spread.
"Yes I have", Trump responded when asked if he had seen any information that the virus originated from the laboratory, adding that the "World Health Organisation should be ashamed of themselves".
"Yes, I have. Yes, I have", Trump said.
Trump also said on Thursday it was possible that China either could not stop the spread of the coronavirus or let it spread. "It is odd that the Chinese then suspend all flights to China, but at the same time - allowed flights from China", he said. "We don't know those answers", Pompeo stated in an interview with Newsradio 1040.
The tension between China and the United States of America seems to have escalated after the Asian nation clapped back at President Donald Trump for hinting the U.S. may seek compensation for COVID-19 damages.
Trump - speaking in an Oval Office interview with Reuters published Wednesday - didn't provide evidence to support the claim that China would deliberately mishandle an outbreak that has killed more than 4,600 of its citizens. "I just wonder if it's real", he said.
Meanwhile, several Republican lawmakers demanding a Congressional hearing alleged that the World Health Organization parroted the Chinese regime's "disinformation" on multiple occasions, including denying human-to-human transmission of the virus.
Trump, who is seeing the US economy devastated by the virus-triggered shutdown ahead of the November election, has grown critical of China for failing to take appropriate steps to stop the spread of the virus that has killed more than 230,000 people worldwide. "They're paying a lot more money than they did when I got here" in January 2017.
How has Trump clashed with USA intelligence before?
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang cited the institute's director, Yuan Zhiming, as saying the lab strictly implements bio-security procedures that would prevent the release of any pathogen.
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