WASHINGTON — China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is akin to the Soviet Union’s response to Chernobyl, U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Sunday.
“The cover-up that they did of the virus is going to go down in history along with Chernobyl,” O’Brien told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” referring to the 1986 nuclear disaster in Ukraine. “We’ll see an HBO special about 10 or 15 years from now.”
Asked about the implications of the pandemic for the newly-agreed-upon U.S.-China trade deal, O’Brien replied that “we’re in a very different world” than when negotiations first began.
“We want good relations with China and with the Chinese people, but unfortunately, we’re seeing just action after action by the Chinese Communist Party that makes it difficult,” O’Brien said. “With respect to the trade deal, we’ll see if they live up to it, but we’re dealing in a new world now with corona.”
“They unleashed a virus on the world that’s destroyed trillions of dollars in American economic wealth that we’re having to spend to keep our economy alive, to keep Americans afloat during this virus.”
Trump suggested earlier this month that he was considering abandoning the deal, signed earlier this year with great fanfare. His remarks came less than 12 hours after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He — and released a joint statement saying they were optimistic China would keep up its end of the bargain.
The deal requires China to increase purchases of U.S. goods and services by $200 billion above 2017 levels over the next two years. That includes $76.7 billion more in U.S. exports this year and $123.3 billion more in 2021.
Doug Palmer contributed to this report.