WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said he will give a press conference on Friday (May 29) on China amid spiraling US-Chinese tensions over Hong Kong and the coronavirus fallout.
“We’ll be announcing tomorrow what we’re doing with respect to China,” he told reporters at an Oval Office meeting on Thursday, saying “we’re not happy with China,” but giving no specific details about his plans.
Wall Street closed lower shortly after Trump’s remarks, ending a three-day streak.
The press conference will come on the same day that Britain and the United States want the UN Security Council to meet informally behind closed doors to discuss the situation in Hong Kong, according to diplomatic sources.
Fears that China will use a new law to end Hong Kong’s freedom as a semi-autonomous territory have prompted expectations that Trump plans to hit back, possibly signaling a wider confrontation between the two economic superpowers.
According to The New York Times, one measure under consideration is annulling visas for thousands of Chinese graduate students at US universities who have ties to educational establishments back home with links to China’s military.
Washington and Beijing are already clashing over responsibility for the extent of the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China but has spread worldwide and caused devastation in the United States.
Domestic critics accuse Trump of mismanagement and say that the 100,000 US deaths and massive unemployment were the result of a slow, patchy federal response to the virus’ spread across the world’s biggest economy.
But Trump blames the crisis on China and for a long time insisted on calling the COVID-19 sickness the “Chinese virus.” He has threatened to cut off US funding for the World Health Organization, accusing the UN body of bias toward Beijing and assisting in a cover-up.
The White House was also incensed by a conspiracy theory spread by a Chinese foreign ministry official that the US army had brought the virus to China in the first place.
A major theme of Trump’s first term was a trade war with China, which he has repeatedly and forcefully accused of gaming international trade rules to get an advantage over the United States.
Despite the tensions, which reached a partial resolution in the signing of this January’s “phase one” trade deal, Trump also consistently praised Chinese leader Xi Jinping as a friend.
Trump had been hoping to tout the results of the trade deal as one of his major achievements going into the November presidential election, but the economic havoc caused by the coronavirus pandemic has upended that.
Asked on Thursday if he would commit to the terms of the trade deal, Trump said “we are not happy with China. We’re not happy with what’s happening.”
“All over the world people are suffering (from coronavirus), 186 countries,” he said.