US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump
PIC: AFP

The White House on Friday said China "mishandled the situation" after the coronavirus outbreak in its Wuhan city, but refrained from giving a definitive answer on retaliatory measures against the Asian giant.

The deadly coronavirus that was first reported in China's Wuhan city in mid-November has so far killed more than 2,35,000 people globally, including 64,000 Americans, and has infected 3.3 million across the world.

Led by the United States, several countries, including Germany, Britain and Australian, are blaming China for the spread of coronavirus across the globe.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump had hinted at using tariff as a tool to punish China for mishandling the virus outbreak and the next day the markets went down.

"The markets are down substantially today after the President yesterday suggested in the East Room that he might use tariffs to punish China over the coronavirus. Is there any serious consideration being given to putting new tariffs on China or was the President just spitballing yesterday?" the new White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked during her maiden press conference. "I won't get ahead of any announcements from the President, but I will echo the President's displeasure with China. It's no secret that China mishandled this situation," McEnany told reporters.

"Just a few examples for you; they did not share the genetic sequence until a professor in Shanghai did so on his own. The very next day China shut down his lab for quote rectification. They slow-walked information on human to human transmission alongside the World Health Organization and didn't let US investigators in at a very important time," she said.

"So, we take displeasure with China's actions, but I certainly won't get out of the president with those announcements. Again, when it comes to retaliatory measures, I will not get ahead of the president on that," McEnany asserted.

The White House Press Secretary said the US continues to have very limited and dubious data from China and the current assessments indicated that Trump's statement, that coronavirus came from a lab in Wuhan, is consistent with what some analysts believe is the epicenter of where the virus began.

On Thursday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) had said in a statement that the Intelligence Community concurs with the wide scientific consensus that "the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified".

Responding to a question on the ODNI's statement, McEnany said "Let me remind everyone intelligence is just an estimate essentially, and it's up to policymakers to decide what to do with that intelligence. In this case, the policymaker is the President of the United States and he will make a decision at the right time." She alleged that there's no secret that China stopped US investigators from coming in.

"It was of paramount importance that we got into China in an expedited fashion, and that didn't happen. With respect to the World Health Organization, they have some questions of their own to answer," the press secretary said.

She said the United States, as the president has emphasized, provides about USD 400 million to USD 500 million per year to the WHO compared to China at roughly USD 40 million a year, but yet "WHO appears to have a very clear China bias".

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