US President Donald Trump floated the idea on Thursday that China deliberately spread the new coronavirus to destabilize the global economy, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
“There’s a chance it was intentional,” Trump said, while also indicating he was not basing this on intelligence and there was a better chance the global spread was accident. "But you never know."
He framed the claim in the midst of taking credit for hurting the Chinese economy by imposing a raft of tariffs.
"They’re saying, man, we’re in a mess. The United States is killing us. Don’t forget, my economy during the last year and a half was blowing them away. And the reason is the tariffs," Trump is quoted as saying.
Tensions have been rising again between the US and China, in part due to the coronavirus, with Trump repeatedly claiming in recent months that Beijing was not transparent about the disease's initial spread. Members of his administration have at times indicated they believe the new virus came from a Chinese lab.
Relations have also soured regarding trade, Chinese tech giant Huawei, Hong Kong and maritime tensions in the South China Sea.
Threat to end relationship
Trump on Thursday repeated his threat to end the world's largest trading relationship.
"It was not Ambassador Lighthizer's fault [yesterday in Committee] in that perhaps I didn’t make myself clear, but the US certainly does maintain a policy option, under various conditions, of a complete decoupling from China," the president tweeted.
Testifying before Congress on Wednesday, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer sounded upbeat on an initial trade deal inked between Washington and Beijing this year, amid some concern after Trump recently indicated how upset he is with China on their commercial relationship.
"I think we have what is an excellent agreement," Lighthizer told lawmakers in the House of Representatives. "We expect it to be honoured."
The US continues to keep tariffs raised on a slew of goods from China. Beijing has also imposed some reciprocal measures.