President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House. AP Photo
Washington: President Donald Trump has hit out at China for being "very secretive" in sharing information on its coronavirus outbreak that has claimed over 13,000 lives globally, asserting that the US and the world would have been better prepared if Beijing gave an "advance warning" about the impending crisis.
Speaking at a press briefing here on Saturday, Trump denied reports that the US intelligence reports in January and February had warned of a coming pandemic, saying America did not know about the outbreak until it started coming out publicly.
"Just so you understand, China is not a beneficiary here. China has thousands and thousands of people. China has gone through hell over this. They've gone through hell. I've had conversations with (Chinese) President Xi (Jinping). I just wish they could have told us earlier. They knew they had a problem earlier. I wish they could have said that," Trump said.
For more than a week now, Trump has been addressing the White House press on a daily basis, with each briefing running for more than an hour every day.
"China was very secretive (on coronavirus). Very, very secretive. And that's unfortunate," he told reporters.
Trump reiterated that he greatly respects China and shares a very good relationship with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, but expressed his disappointment that Beinjing was dishonest and slow to alert the world about the seriousness of coronavirus.
"I have great respect for that country. I have great respect for the leader of that country and like him. He's a friend of mine. But I wish they would have told us earlier, that they were having a problem," he said.
"Because they were having a big problem and they knew it, and I wish they could have given us an advance warning. Because we could have done a lot of things - as an example, some of the things that we're talking about, where we order them as quickly as we can. If we had a two- or three-month difference in time, it would have been much better," Trump said.
As per latest figures available at Worldometers, the United States with 26,686 confirmed cases has emerged as the third most coronavirus infected country after China (81,054) and Italy (53,578).