US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stepped up his criticism of China, blaming the government for the massive damage caused by the global spread of the coronavirus.
Pompeo was speaking at a news conference on Wednesday. He said China has been ruled by "a brutal, authoritarian regime." He added "China's contributions to fighting the pandemic are paltry compared to the cost that they have imposed on the world."
Pompeo went on to criticize World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying the director-general's "unusually close ties to Beijing" started long before the pandemic.
President Donald Trump has also stepped up his rhetoric. He tweeted "it was the 'incompetence of China', and nothing else, that did this mass Worldwide killing!"
In the United States, where coronavirus infections continue to spread, the public is increasingly questioning China's responsibility, particularly supporters of the Republican Party.
Democrats are pointing out that Trump is stepping up his criticism of China ahead of the November presidential election to fend off criticism of his own initial response to the coronavirus.