US-China coronavirus tensions the start of a new Cold War, ex-Trump aide warns

As the November presidential elections looms, Donald Trump continues to blame Beijing for the global outbreak of COVID-19 which has killed more than 69,000 Americans and infected 1.2 million. Clete Willems, a former top White House trade negotiator, said the worsening relationship between the two world powers marks the beginning of a new Cold War.

Mr Willems warned tensions between the Trump administration and China’s Communist Party are “rising considerably” in the current environment.

He also said things could get significantly worse in the coming months and years.

Mr Willems told CNBC: “The reality is that tensions between the United States and China are rising considerably at the moment.

“I know people get uncomfortable with the terminology, but I do think we have to be honest and call this what it is and this is the start of a new Cold War and if we’re not careful, things could get much, much worse.”

President Trump has claimed coronavirus came from a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan which was the epicentre of the country’s outbreak.

Speaking at a press briefing at the White House on Thursday, Mr Trump was asked if he had seen any evidence to back up the theory that COVID-19 originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

He replied: “Yes, I have. Yes, I have.

“And I think the World Health Organization (WHO) should be ashamed of themselves because they’re like the public relations agency for China.”

He did not give details about the nature of the evidence he claimed he had access to.

Asked later to clarify his comment, he added: “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”

Speaking to Fox News on Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial, Mr Trump said he believes Chinese scientists at the lab made a mistake and the virus escaped.

And he said the Chinese Government did not want to admit to the world the enormity of the slip-up.

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“My opinion is they made a mistake,” said Mr Trump.

“They tried to cover it, they tried to put it out. It’s like a fire.

You know, it’s really like trying to put out a fire. They couldn’t put out the fire.”

The US has also hit out at China over its handling of the crisis.

It has accused the Chinese Government of failing to be upfront about the threat of the virus and said actions to contain the disease were taken too slowly.

China has rejected Mr Trump’ Wuhan lab claim.

A nationalist tabloid newspaper controlled by the Chinese Communist Party dismissed claims made by US Secretary Mike Pompeo as “groundless”.

Mr Pompeo claimed there was “enormous evidence” linking the origins of coronavirus to a Wuhan lab.

Responding to his claims, China’s state-owned Global Times said: “Since Pompeo said his claims are supported by ‘enormous evidence,’ then he should present this so-called evidence to the world, and especially to the American public who he continually tries to fool.

“The truth is that Pompeo does not have any evidence, and during Sunday’s interview, he was bluffing.”

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