US President Donald Trump weighing punitive measures against China

US officials said to be deciding on punitive measures against China in wake of country's alleged CV-19 disinformation campaign.

Eitan Divinsky ,

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

Senior US officials have revealed that President Trump is assessing different retaliatory measures against China in wake of its alleged mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sources familiar with the situation said the President has become increasingly convinced that the socialist state was to blame for a misinformation campaign and that a political and economic break with China were in order.

As additional information regarding the handling of the outbreak has surfaced, Trump has moved from praising China's efforts to placing blame with the country. Senior administration officials are expected to convene today to plan retaliatory steps on behalf of the US where over a million people have been infected with the coronavirus and more than 62,000 have perished.

Officials have said that Trump was weighing options that included stripping China of its political sovereignty status, a severe move that would allow the US government and victims of the virus to sue China for damages. Another possibility that has been floated is waiving America's debt interest to the communist state as a result of economic damages incurred as a result of the crisis.

Chinese officials, for their part, have mostly taken a non-apologetic approach for their role in the global spread of COVID-19. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said: "The U.S. should know that their enemy is the virus, not China…" They should focus on containment at home and international cooperation, instead of smearing China and shifting the blame onto China…As for punishment or accountability, as I have repeatedly stated, such rhetoric has no legal basis, and there’s no international precedent."

While critics of the administration have claimed Trump has been engaging in unnecessary sable rattling at a time when the nation is facing one of the biggest challenges in its history, the President seems serious when it comes to making good on at least some of his threats. On Monday, Trump suggested that he would seek hundreds of billions of dollars in punitive damages. He also mentioned additional measures without clarifying what they would be. "We can do something much easier than that," he said when prodded about financial compensation from China. "We have ways of doing things a lot easier than that."

Legal experts say it would be near impossible to get China to pay damages or any other type of reparation and attempts on behalf of the US government to punish the regime are seen as risking military confrontation with the nuclear-armed state. With a large number of options on the table for the American administration, selecting which one to pursue will likely be the most difficult to make and either pay dividends for the US and the numerous victims of the deadly scourge or end up a costly mistake. Either way, it is likely to be one of the biggest decisions in the President's political career and play a critical role in the upcoming elections.