Senator Lindsey Graham wants China to "pay big time," including cancelling some of the US' debt to the country, for its initial lackluster response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"This is the third pandemic to come from China. They come from these wet markets where they have bats and monkeys with the virus, carrying the virus intermingled with the food supply," the South Carolina Republican said in an interview with Fox News Monday. "Yeah, I'd make China pay big time."
Mr Graham agreed with Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, who said last week China should waive some of the US government's nearly $1trn debt after "covering up" the health crisis that originated in its Wuhan province until the outbreak could no longer be contained.
"Makes sense to me," Mr Graham said of Ms Blackburn's proposal. "If it were up to me the whole world should send China a bill for the pandemic."
Mr Graham's and Ms Blackburn's comments echo the widespread belief among congressional Republicans that China ought to pay some sort of reparations for being the origin of yet another global health crisis.
Senator Josh Hawley and three other Senate Republicans introduced a bill last month that would commission an international investigation into the Chinese government's response to the coronavirus outbreak and establish a "mechanism for delivering compensation" from the Chinese government to countries affected by the pandemic.
Mr Graham indicated Monday that the president will be the one mostly responsible for holding China accountable for the global health crisis in the coming months, and that Donald Trump is the candidate best equipped to continue pressuring Beijing.
"Here's the question for 2020: Who do you want to take on China? Trump or Joe Biden? I don't think that would be a hard decision for most people," Mr Graham said.
"If this is about China, how to get China to change, Trump has done more with China in three years than any president in my lifetime," he said.
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