US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump
PIC: AFP

Washington: US President Donald Trump has described the coronavirus pandemic as the "worst attack" ever on the United States, pointing the finger at China.

Trump said the pandemic had hit the US harder than the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in World War Two, or the 9/11 attacks two decades ago, the BBC reported.

His administration is weighing punitive actions against China over its early handling of the virus outbreak.

Beijing said the US wants to distract from its own handling of the pandemic.

Since emerging in China at the end of last year, the coronavirus is confirmed to have infected 1.2 million Americans, killing nearly 73,000.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office of the White House, Trump said: "We went through the worst attack we've ever had on our country, this is worst attack we've ever had.

"This is worse than Pearl Harbor, this is worse than the World Trade Center. There's never been an attack like this.

"And it should have never happened. Could've been stopped at the source. Could've been stopped in China. It should've been stopped right at the source. And it wasn't."

Asked later by a reporter if he viewed the pandemic as an actual act of war, Mr Trump suggested it was the pandemic that is America's enemy, rather than China.

"I view the invisible enemy [coronavirus] as a war," he said. "I don't like how it got here, because it could have been stopped, but no, I view the invisible enemy like a war."

The deepening rift between Washington and Beijing was underscored by comments during a White House briefing later on Wednesday.

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters: "Right now it's a relationship of disappointment and frustration because the president has said how frustrated he is that some of the decisions of China put American lives at risk."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo renewed his rhetoric against China on Wednesday, accusing it of covering up the outbreak.

He stuck by his widely contested charge that there is "enormous evidence" the new coronavirus emerged in a Chinese laboratory, even while acknowledging there is still uncertainty about its origins.

"Those statements are both true," he told the BBC. "We don't have certainty and there is significant evidence that it came from a lab."

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