US President Donald Trump questioned the accuracy of the official Chinese figures for his coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday after US legislature accused Beijing of covering up under an intelligence report.
"How do we know that?" Trump asked at a press conference. "Your numbers seem a bit bright."
Trump insisted that "the relationship with China is good" and that he remains close to President Xi Jinping.
However, the controversy surrounding Beijing's transparency has weighed on relationships and contributed to the bad feelings triggered by a conspiracy theory in China that the US military was responsible for the virus.
Republicans in Congress, referring to a Bloomberg report citing U.S. intelligence agencies, were outraged that Beijing had apparently misled the international community about China's infections and deaths that began in Wuhan in late 2019.
China's reporting was deliberately incomplete, and some intelligence officials described Beijing's numbers as fake, Bloomberg said, highlighting the intelligence document that was sent to the White House last week.
According to a rolling tracker from Johns Hopkins University, China publicly reported 82,361 confirmed cases and 3,316 deaths on Wednesday.
This corresponds to 206,207 cases and 4,542 deaths in the United States, the country with the world's largest reported outbreak.
Republican Senator Ben Sasse attacked Beijing's numbers as "garbage propaganda".
"The claim that more coronaviruses die in the US than in China is wrong," said Sasse in a statement.
"Without commenting on classified information, it's painfully obvious: The Chinese Communist Party has lied, lies, and will continue to lie about coronaviruses to protect the regime."
In response to the report, Michael McCaul, senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said China was "not a trusted partner" in the fight against COVID-19.
"They lied to the world about the human-to-human transmission of the virus, silenced doctors and journalists who tried to tell the truth, and now seemingly hid the exact number of people affected by the disease," said McCaul.
He and other lawmakers have asked the State Department to launch an investigation into what he called China's "cover-up" of the pandemic.
On Tuesday, a member of Trump's coronavirus task force, doctor Deborah Birx, told the medical community that China's outbreak was "serious but smaller than expected" because we probably missed a significant amount of the data.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)