U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said he does not want to talk to his Chinese counterpart, and mused about ending the world’s largest trading relationship, amid rising tensions about the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking in an interview with Fox Business Network, Trump said he had a “very good relationship” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but “right now, I don’t want to speak to him.”
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“There are many things we could do,” Trump said. “We could cut off the whole relationship.”
Trump, who has sought to blame China for being the source of the pandemic, even as his own handling of the crisis in the US has come under fire, said he was “very disappointed” in Beijing for its failure to stop the virus at the source.
“It was either stupidity, incompetence or it was deliberate,” he said.
The president reiterated he was not interested in reopening talks on the phase-one trade deal agreed with Beijing earlier this year, which had served as a ceasefire in a brewing trade war.
The Trump administration, which has been mulling ways to punish or seek compensation from Beijing for the damage caused by the pandemic, is examining Chinese companies that trade on U.S. stock exchanges but do not follow U.S. accounting rules, Trump said.
The president also complained about China’s apparent attempts to steal U.S. research on coronavirus vaccines and treatments.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency on Wednesday warned that hackers linked to the Chinese government were targeting U.S. organisations working on a virus response.
“The United States condemns attempts by cyber actors and non-traditional collectors affiliated with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to steal U.S. intellectual property and data related to COVID-19 research,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Thursday, calling on Beijing “to cease this malicious activity.”
“The PRC’s behaviour in cyberspace is an extension of its counterproductive actions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, accusing China of continuing to “silence scientists, journalists, and citizens, and to spread disinformation, which has exacerbated the dangers of this health crisis.”
Pompeo has continued to pursue a theory that the virus came from a Chinese laboratory, even without presenting any evidence, and experts saying it does not appear to be man-made.
Peter Navarro, a key economic advisor to the president, said China spawned the virus, “probably in that weapons lab in Wuhan.”
Beijing hid the virus “for two months behind the shield of the WHO,” “vacuumed up” all the personal protective equipment across the world and “hoarded it,” “killing people” and “profiteering” from it, he told broadcaster Fox News.