U.S. President Donald Trump hinted at a much tougher policy toward drug dealers, during a White House summit on the nation's opioid crisis.
"Some countries have a tough penalty, the ultimate penalty, and they have much less of a drug problem than we do," Trump said at the Thursday event.
The comment appeared to be in line with a media report suggesting Trump is toying with the idea of supporting the death penalty for major drug trafficking offenses.
The report quoted an unnamed senior administration official who said the president often jokes about killing drug dealers.
"You know the Chinese and Filipinos don't have a drug problem. They just kill them," the senior administration official quoted Trump as saying.
During his event Thursday, Trump did not endorse the idea of the death penalty for drug traffickers.
"We have to have strength with regards to the pushers and drug dealers," Trump said. "If we don't do that then we're never going to solve the problem."
Trump declared the crisis a national public health emergency in October.
In 2016, about 64,000 people died of drug overdoses, about two-thirds of which were caused by opioids.
State and city governments are bearing most of the financial burden of the crisis. Congress approved funds in its budget agreement reached last month, but the money has yet to reach state and city coffers.
The epidemic is widely believed to have been caused by the failure of drug makers and distributors to report the redirection of opioids from pharmacies to the underground market and doctors' over-prescription of the narcotic painkillers.
The summit, which was attended by Cabinet secretaries and individuals affected by the opioid epidemic, comes two days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions said a new task force would go after pharmaceutical companies and distributors for contributing to the epidemic.