US President Donald Trump described the coronavirus pandemic as the "worst attack" of all time in the United States, pointing the finger at China.
Trump said the pandemic hit the U.S. harder than the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in World War II, or the 9/11 attacks two decades ago.
His government is evaluating punitive actions against China for the early treatment of the virus outbreak.
Beijing says the United States wants to be distracted by its own treatment of the pandemic.
Since it appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, it has been confirmed that the coronavirus has infected 1.2 million Americans, killing almost 73,000.
What did President Trump say?
Speaking to reporters in the White House Oval Office, Trump said: "We have been through the worst attack we have ever had in our country, this is the worst attack we have ever had.
"This is worse than Pearl Harbor, this is worse than the World Trade Center. There has never been an attack like this.
"And it should never have happened. It could have been stopped at the source. It could have been stopped in China. It should have been stopped at the source. And it was not."
Asked later by a reporter whether he saw the pandemic as an act of real war, Trump suggested it was the pandemic that is America's enemy, not China.
"I see the invisible enemy [coronavirus] like a war, "he said." I don't like how it got here, because it could have been interrupted, but no, I see the invisible enemy as a war ".
Who else on the Trump team is criticizing China?
The gap between Washington and Beijing was further emphasized on Wednesday, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo renewed his rhetoric against China, accusing it of covering up the outbreak.
He maintained his widely contested charge that there is "enormous evidence" that the new coronavirus appeared in a Chinese laboratory, even though he acknowledged that there is still uncertainty about its origins.
"These statements are true," the top US diplomat told the BBC. "We are not sure and there is significant evidence that it came from a laboratory."
Chinese state media accused him of lying.
One of the most trusted public health experts in the United States said the best evidence indicates that the virus was not produced in the laboratory.
Anthony Fauci, a member of Trump's coronavirus task force, said in an interview published on Monday that the disease appeared to "evolve in the wild and then jump species".
Why is the US blaming China?
President Trump faces a tough re-election campaign in November, but the U.S. economy, which was once the main selling point – is currently in a coronavirus-induced coma.
A recent Pew opinion poll last month found that a historic high of two-thirds of Americans views China unfavorably. But, roughly by the same margin, respondents said they believed Trump acted very slowly to contain the pandemic.
Both Trump and his likely Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, appear to be clinging to China's unpopularity as an electoral issue, with each accusing the other of being an insult to the U.S.'s top economic competitor.
The Trump campaign dubbed its opponent "Beijing Biden", while the Democrat's campaign pointed out that Trump praised China and its leader more than a dozen times in the early days of the outbreak.
The Republican president used to label the outbreak "China's virus", but he stepped down last month around the time he spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping by phone.
When the coronary virus began to spread in the U.S. in January, Trump signed the first phase of a trade agreement with China, which called for a truce in its tariff war. The US president's hopes of closing a more comprehensive phase two deal are now in limbo because of the pandemic.