US President Donald Trump has described the coronavirus pandemic as the worst attack ever on the United States, blaming China.
Mr Trump said the pandemic had hit the US harder than the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in World War Two, or the 9/11 attacks two decades ago.
His administration is weighing punitive actions against China over its early handling of the virus outbreak.
Beijing says the US wants to distract from its own handling of the pandemic.
Since emerging in China at the end of last year, the coronavirus is confirmed to have infected 1.2 million Americans, killing nearly 73,000.
What did President Trump say?
Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office of the White House, Mr Trump said: “We went through the worst attack we’ve ever had on our country, this is worst attack we’ve ever had.
“This is worse than Pearl Harbor, this is worse than the World Trade Center. There’s never been an attack like this.
“And it should have never happened. Could’ve been stopped at the source. Could’ve been stopped in China. It should’ve been stopped right at the source. And it wasn’t.”
Asked later by a reporter if he viewed the pandemic as an actual act of war, Mr Trump suggested it was the pandemic that is America’s enemy, rather than China.
“I view the invisible enemy [coronavirus] as a war,” he said. “I don’t like how it got here, because it could have been stopped, but no, I view the invisible enemy like a war.”
Who else in the Trump administration is criticising China?
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo renewed his aggressive rhetoric against China on Wednesday.
He renewed his widely contested charge that there is “enormous evidence” the new coronavirus emerged in a Chinese laboratory, though he acknowledged there is still uncertainty about its origins.
“China could have prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide,” America’s top diplomat told reporters on Wednesday.
“China could have spared the world a descent into global economic malaise. They had a choice but instead [they] covered up the outbreak.”
He did not provide evidence for his claim, which was the latest example of the US condemning Beijing’s approach to the pandemic.
Those statements are both true. We don’t have certainty and there is significant evidence that it came from a lab.
Mr Pompeo earlier said – without going into specifics – that there was “enormous evidence” the coronavirus emanated from a laboratory in the city of Wuhan. Chinese state media later accused him of lying.