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2020-04-30

Trump says that China wants him to lose his re-election bid

Image:-REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he believes that China's handling of coronavirus is evidence that Beijing will "do whatever they can" to make him lose his November re-election bid.

In an Oval Office interview with Reuters, Trump spoke tough on China and said he was looking at various options in terms of Beijing's consequences over the virus. "I can do a lot," he said.

Trump blamed China for a global pandemic that, according to a Reuters tally, killed at least 60,000 people in the U.S. and threw the U.S. economy into a deep recession, jeopardizing his hopes for another four-year term.

Often accused of not acting early enough to prepare the United States for the spread of the virus, the Republican president said he believed China should have been more active in letting the world know about the coronavirus much sooner.

Asked if he was considering using tariffs or even write-offs on debt for China, Trump would not be offering specifics. "I can do quite a lot of things," he said. "We're trying to find out what happened."

"China will do whatever it takes to get me to lose this race," Trump said. He said he believes Beijing wants to win the race by his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, to ease the pressure Trump has placed on China over trade and other problems.

"They're constantly using public relations to try and make it as if they're innocent parties," he said of officials in China.

He said the trade deal he entered into with Chinese President Xi Jinping aimed at reducing chronic U.S. trade deficits with China had been "very badly upset" by the virus' economic fallout.

A senior Trump administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday that an informal "truce" in the war of words that Trump and Xi essentially agreed in a late March phone call now seemed to be over.

The two leaders had promised their governments will do all they can to cooperate to contain the coronavirus. In recent days, Washington and Beijing have been trading ever more bitter recriminations about the origin and response to the virus.

Trump and his top aides, however, while stepping up their anti-China rhetoric, have stopped short of directly criticizing Xi, whom the U.S. president has repeatedly called his "friend." Trump also said South Korea agreed to pay the U.S. more money for a defense cooperation agreement but wouldn't be drawn on how much.

"We can settle a deal. They want to make a deal,' said Trump. "They agreed to make a lot of money paying. They're paying much more money than they did in January 2017 when I got here.

The United States stationed approximately 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War of 1950-53 which ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

Trump is leading a triage effort to try to keep the U.S. economy floating through stimulus payments to individuals and businesses while nudging state governors to reopen their states carefully as new infections fall.

Trump sounded wistful about the strong economy he'd enjoyed compared to now, when millions of people lost their jobs and GDP wavered.

"Before this happened we'd rocked. We have had the biggest economy in history, "he said.

He said he was pleased with the way many governors operate under the virus strain, but he said some need to improve. He wouldn't call names.

Trump's handling of the virus has been scrutinized. According to the April 27-28 Reuters / Ipsos poll, 43 per cent of Americans approved of Trump's handling of the coronavirus.

But there have been some good news about coronavirus, as Gilead Sciences Inc said its experimental antiviral drug remdesivir shows progress in treating victims of viruses.

Trump has also sought an accelerated timetable for vaccine development.

"I think things are going very nicely along with this," he said.

Trump offered lighthearted remarks at the end of the half-hour interview about a newly released Navy video purportedly showing an unidentified flying object.