Washington — President Trump on Wednesday addressed China’s decision to pull press credentials of reporters from three U.S.-based newspapers as retaliation against the U.S., saying he’s “not happy” with the move, despite his own issues with the press.

Mr. Trump was asked during a news conference on the coronavirus about the announcement by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that American journalists with the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post with credentials set to expire before the end of the year must turn in their press cards.

The reporters have 10 days to surrender their credentials.

“I’m not happy to see it,” the president said. “I have my own disputes with all three of those media groups. I think you know that very well, but I don’t like seeing that at all. I’m not happy about it at all.”

In addition to requiring U.S. journalists with the three newspapers to turn over their press cards, the Chinese government is also requiring five U.S. outlets to provide information about their staff, finances, operations and real estate in China. The outlets named include the three newspapers, along with Time and Voice of America.

The move from China targeting the American reporters comes after the Trump administration designated five state-run Chinese news outlets in the U.S. as “foreign missions” in February and imposed a cap on the number of Chinese nationals working for them.

China then expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters from the country. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rebuked China’s decision to take action against the five American news outlets and rejected its comparison to the action taken by the U.S., saying the difference was that the U.S. action did not target journalists.

“The individuals that we identified a few weeks back were not media that were acting here freely,” he told reporters at the State Department on Monday. “They were part of Chinese propaganda outlets. We’ve identified these as foreign missions under American law. These aren’t apples to apples in any respect.”

Pompeo added that he regrets China’s decision and said it further forecloses “the world’s ability to conduct the free press operations that frankly would be really good for the Chinese people.”

Editors at the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post also condemned the actions by the Chinese government.

Dean Baquet, executive editor at the New York Times, said in a statement the move was a “grave mistake” and “is especially irresponsible at a time when the world needs the free and open flow of credible information about the coronavirus pandemic.”

Marty Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post, called the decision “particularly regrettable” because it comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected people in countries worldwide. 

Matt Murray, editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal, condemned “China’s unprecedented attack on freedom of the press.”

Christina Ruffini contributed to this report.

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