WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump intensified his attacks on China for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 700,000 worldwide, as his health secretary headed to Taiwan for a visit set to irk Beijing.
Mr Trump, whose public approval ratings have fallen amid continued Covid-19 infections and economic woes, sought to shift the focus to Beijing, claiming again, without evidence, that it may have intentionally let the virus spread globally.
The Republican President, who is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in national polls ahead of the Nov 3 election, said on Thursday it was a "disgrace" that Beijing had limited the spread of the virus at home but allowed it to reach the rest of the world.
"What China did is a terrible thing... whether it was incompetence or on purpose," he said, as his administration continued to crack down on Chinese firms and exports.
Mr Biden on Wednesday said a Phase 1 US-China trade deal signed in January by the world's two largest economies was "failing" after Commerce Department data showed the US-China trade deficit widened 5 per cent to US$28.4 billion (S$38.9 billion) in June.
Mr Trump signed an executive order on Thursday aimed at yanking back supply chains from China for key ingredients and supplies used to make medicines and medical equipment.
It focuses on boosting US production of medicines and medical equipment, lowering drug prices and protecting the US against shortfalls in a future pandemic.
Mr Trump said the order would also support advanced manufacturing processes that would benefit US pharmaceutical companies.