The White House has ordered US intelligence agencies to investigate whether the Chinese government and the World Health Organisation hid information about the early days of the coronavirus outbreak.

The high-level "tasking" was sent to the National Security Agency and Defence Intelligence Agency last week, NBC News reported. Donald Trump has appeared angry with China for not telling the United States and other countries about the novel virus going public there, though at times he has stopped short of naming the Asian power.

During remarks Tuesday at the White House, the president appeared to allude to the NSA-DIA probe of China and the WHO.

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"We're doing very serious investigations," Mr Trump told reporters during a question-and-answer session.

"We are not happy with that whole situation, because we believe it could have been stopped at the source, it could have been stopped quickly, and it wouldn't have spread all over the world," Mr Trump said.

Later in the day, the president did call out Beijing by name.

"It's in 184 countries, as you hear me say often. It's hard to believe. It's inconceivable," he said during his second back-and-forth with reporters of the day. "It should've been stopped at the source, which was China. It should've been stopped very much at the source, but it wasn't. And now we have 184 countries going through hell."

A White House spokesman confirmed the investigation to NBC News.

"As the president has said, the United States is thoroughly investigating this matter," Hogan Gidley said, though a spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence said that office was unaware of such a tasking order. "Understanding the origins of the virus is important to help the world respond to this pandemic but also to inform rapid-response efforts to future infectious disease outbreaks."

Mr Trump earlier this month announced he has frozen US budget contributions to the WHO, pending investigations about what that organisation new about the virus in China. Answering that question is part of the NSA-DIA probe.

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