Washington, Aug. 11 (CNA) United States President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised Taiwan’s handling of COVID-19 but responded in the negative when asked if he was considering a presidential visit to country before the end of the year.
Trump’s comments, in an interview with conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt, came as a U.S. delegation led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was in Taiwan to strengthen public health cooperation between the countries.
During the interview, Hewitt asked whether Azar’s “significant” visit to Taiwan was a “trial run for something bigger,” such as a visit by Trump himself before the end of the year.
“No, I’m not. No, it wasn’t, you know, anything like that. It wasn’t, it was just something we were talking about COVID. They’ve done well. We’ve done well also. We get no credit for it,” Trump said, according to a transcript of the interview on Hewitt’s website.
Hewitt then asked Trump if countries like Japan, South Korea “or even Taiwan” should seek nuclear weapons or hypersonic missiles, given China’s “recklessness with the virus, and its aggressiveness.”
“Well, I’m not going to suggest anything, but I will tell you it causes problems,” Trump said, adding that China would be “a big point of discussion for us” in the coming months.
Elsewhere in the interview, Trump described how the COVID-19 pandemic had raised tensions in his previously “great relationship” with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).
“He’s a great gentleman. But my relationship is no longer very good with him because of what they did with the China virus,” Trump said, using the term he has controversially applied to COVID-19.
Azar’s visit is the first by a U.S. Cabinet official since 2014, when then U.S. President Barack Obama sent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy to the country.
The last sitting U.S. president to visit Taiwan was Dwight Eisenhower, who met with then President Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) on a two-day state visit in 1960.
The United States severed formal diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan’s official name) in 1979.