Trump officials mapping out plan for ‘punishing China’ for COVID-19 outbreak that now threatens president's re-election
President Donald Trump. (AFP Photo/MANDEL NGAN)

President Donald Trump's administration is exploring possible punishments or financial compensation from China over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Four senior administration officials told the Washington Post that work was underway on the proposals for retaliation, which could further strain relations between the global superpowers, after an angry Trump has fumed for days to aides about China's role in the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Punishing China is definitely where the president’s head is at right now,” said one senior adviser.

Trump and his national security aides have privately discussed stripping China of its sovereign immunity, which would allow the U.S. government or victims to sue for damages related to the pandemic and may require congressional approval, the sources revealed.

The U.S. has reported more than 1 million cases as of Thursday, including at least 61,700 deaths.

National security officials have also considered having the U.S. cancel part of its debt to China, two sources said, although it's not clear whether the president supports that proposal.

The discussions remained in the preliminary stages and little formal work has been done so far, the sources said.

Some economic advisers have warned Trump, who blames China for the pandemic that's eroding his re-election chances, from taking action to punish the global giant, which has been sending badly needed supplies to help U.S. medical workers.