The White House national security adviser on Sunday compared China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic to the then-Soviet Union’s response after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

“The cover-up that they did of the virus is going to go down in history, along with Chernobyl. We’ll see an HBO special about it 10 or 15 years from now. And so we’re in a different place with China as we speak today,” Robert O’Brien said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

O’Brien was responding to a question from host Chuck Todd about whether the Trump administration was tough enough on Beijing as it tried to hammer out a trade deal with the country.

“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. And 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,” O’Brien said.

“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.”

President Trump has blasted China and its President Xi Jinping for misleading the US and other countries about the coronavirus outbreak that began in the city of Wuhan in December and for failing to accurately report the number of cases it had.

Those actions by China, Trump said, allowed the coronavirus to spread widely before countries could take effective steps to combat it.

O’Brien described Trump’s Jan. 30 order banning travel from China as a “profile in courage” that “saved countless lives.”

He said China continues to block doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention into China to gather information about the virus that has caused more than 5.3 million cases around the world.

“Unfortunately, China did none of that. And so, look, we’re in a very different place with China right now, and the president’s made that clear. But, you know, the Chinese didn’t do what they said. We’ve also learned that at the time, that they cracked down internally and refused to allow people from Hubei and Wuhan to travel throughout China, they allowed those folks to travel to Europe,” O’Brien said.

He was asked on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” whether he thought China would share a coronavirus vaccine with the US if it developed one first.

“I think we’re going to develop a vaccine first,” O’Brien said, but added “there’s a chance, and it’s been reported, that the Chinese have been engaged in espionage to try to find the research and the technologies that we’re working on both for a vaccine and a therapy … they’ve got a many-year history of stealing American intellectual property and knocking off American technology and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did that with the vaccines.”


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