China says it has no interest in interfering in the US presidential election after President Donald Trump said he believed Beijing would try to make him lose his re-election bid in November.
In an interview for Reuters on Wednesday, Trump said: “China will do anything they can to have me lose this race”, adding he believed Beijing wanted his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, to win the election to ease the pressure Trump has placed on China over trade and other issues.
Trump also said he was looking at different options in terms of consequences for Beijing over the coronavirus pandemic.
“The US presidential election is an internal affair, we have no interest in interfering in it,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters during a daily briefing.
“We hope the people of the US will not drag China into its election politics.”
Trump and other top officials have blamed China for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. It has infected more than one million Americans and has thrown the US economy into a deep recession.
“There are many things I can do,” Trump told Reuters. “We’re looking for what happened.”
The Republican President, often accused of not acting early enough to prepare the United States for the spread of the virus, said he believed China should have been more active in letting the world know about the coronavirus much sooner.
Asked whether he was considering the use of tariffs or even debt write-offs for China, Trump would not offer specifics.
Geng reiterated during Thursday’s briefing that China was a victim of the epidemic and not its accomplice, adding that attempts by “certain politicans” to shift the blame away from their poor handling of the outbreak to Beijing would only “expose the problems of the US itself”.
“The US should know this: the enemy is the virus, not China,” he said.
Trump said the trade deal he concluded with Chinese President Xi Jinping aimed at reducing chronic US trade deficits with China had been “upset very badly” by the economic fallout from the virus.
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 to in a phone call in late March now appeared to be over.
The two leaders had promised that their governments would do everything possible to cooperate to contain the coronavirus. In recent days, Washington and Beijing have traded increasingly bitter recriminations over the origin of the virus and the response to it.
READ ALSO: No plans to meddle in US election, China declares
However, Trump and his top aides, while stepping up their anti-China rhetoric, have stopped short of directly criticising Xi, who the US president has repeatedly called his “friend”.
Trump also said South Korea has agreed to pay the United States more money for a defence cooperation agreement but would not be drawn out on how much.
“We can make a deal. They want to make a deal,” Trump said.
“They’ve agreed to pay a lot of money. They’re paying a lot more money than they did when I got here (in January 2017).”
The United States stations roughly 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in an armistice, rather than a peace treaty.
Trump is leading a triage effort to try to keep the US economy afloat through stimulus payments to individuals and companies while nudging state governors to carefully reopen their states as new infections decline.
Trump’s handling of the virus has come under scrutiny. Forty-three per cent of Americans approved of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, according to the Reuters/Ipsos poll from April 27-28.
But the president got some good news when Gilead Sciences said it’s experimental antiviral drug remdesivir was showing progress in treating virus victims.
Trump has also seeking an accelerated timetable on development of a vaccine.
“I think things are moving along very nicely,” he said.