Donald Trump suggested China may have “let the virus spread – EPA
Donald Trump said he had seen evidence the coronavirus originated at a Chinese research laboratory, and threatened new tariffs on China.
Asked if he had seen anything that gave him a “high degree of confidence” the virus came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the US president said: “Yes I have. Yes I have.”
Asked what that evidence was, he said: “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”
Ramping up his rhetoric against China, Mr Trump suggested the country may have “let the virus spread”.
He said the trade deal between the two countries “now becomes secondary to what took place with the virus, the virus situation is unacceptable.”
Asked if he was considering not fulfilling US debt obligations to China, he said: “I can do it differently for more money just by putting on tariffs. We can do it in a little bit of a more forthright manner.”
In another marathon press conference at the White House Mr Trump also said Joe Biden should answer questions over a sex allegation by a former aide, indicated he knows Kim Jong-un’s state of health, and suggested he would consider taking General Michael Flynn back into his administration.
Mr Trump’s comments on the Wuhan lab came despite a statement earlier in the day from his own intelligence services.
Issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the statement said the virus was not man-made or genetically modified, but they would continue to investigate whether it was accidentally released from the Wuhan lab. Mr Trump said he had not seen the statement.
Asked if the US would demand access to inspect the lab, Mr Trump said: “I don’t want to go into that. So far I think China is trying to, or at least they seem to be trying, to be somewhat transparent with us. But we’re going to find out.
“Whether they made a mistake, whether it started off as a mistake, and then they made another mistake or did somebody do something on purpose?
“We’re looking at exactly where it came from, who it came from, and how it happened.”
He added: “There’s a lot of theories. We have people looking at it very, very strongly. Scientific people, intelligence people, and others, and when we put it all together we’re going to have a very good answer eventually. China may tell us.”
Mr Trump declined to say whether he held Xi Jinping personally responsible. He said: “One of two things happened. They couldn’t do it from a competence point, or they let it spread. They could have stopped it, they are a very brilliant nation. It got loose let’s say and they could have capped it, stopped it, but they didn’t.”
He said the World Health Organisation should be “ashamed of themselves” for “making excuses” for China.
Asked if he knew the condition of Kim Jong-un, Mr Trump said: “I understand what’s going on. I just can’t talk about Kim Jong-un right now.”
Mr Biden has faced allegation from former aide Tara Reade that he sexually assaulted her in 1993. His campaign has denied it, but Mr Biden has yet to speak about the allegation.
Mr Trump said: “I don’t know anything about it. I think he should respond. It could be false accusations. I know all about false accusations. I can’t speak for Biden, I can only say I think he should respond.”
The president said he would consider bringing General Michael Flynn back into his administration. He said: “I would certainly consider it. I think he’s a fine man. I think he’ll be fully exonerated one way or the other.”