US President Donald Trump has said that his feelings towards his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, have soured due to the coronavirus pandemic, adding that the pair used to enjoy amicable relations.

“I used to have a very good relationship with him,” Trump told Fox Sports Radio in an interview. “I had a great relationship with President Xi. I like him, but I don’t feel the same way now.”

He said that since the Covid-19 outbreak, which Trump called the “China Plague” in a recent tweet, the two haven’t communicated.

US-China tensions have significantly increased since the pandemic began. Trump’s administration has repeatedly blamed China for the outbreak, going so far as to theorize that the virus may have come from a laboratory in Wuhan. He suggested that the political fallout from the health crisis has been far worse than his controversial trade war with Beijing. 

“This is a thousand times the trade deal what happened with all of the death and… the world had to shut down. It’s a disgrace,” Trump argued. 

China has repeatedly denied any nefarious involvement in the spread of coronavirus and has challenged Washington to produce evidence to back up its claims. 

Washington has also gone after Chinese businesses as its rift with Beijing grows in severity. The Treasury Department announced on Tuesday that Chinese firms with shares traded on US stock exchanges could lose their listings if they refuse to comply with audit requirements. 

The move follows Trump’s decision to ban US firms from doing business with Chinese-owned social media platforms TikTok and WeChat within 45 days, claiming the apps are used to spy on US citizens. Beijing has fervently denied the accusation. The two nations have also entered into a tit-for-tat sanction battle over alleged human rights abuses in Hong Kong. 

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