The US has s abruptly ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, accusing diplomats of aiding economic espionage and the attempted theft of scientific research. After the United States ordered China vowed to retaliate, calling the action illegal.
China’s Foreign Ministry Wang Wenbin said China was notified Tuesday that it would have to close the consulate within 72 hours. In a regular daily news briefing, he described the action as an “unprecedented escalation” and said China would “react with firm countermeasures” if the United States does not revoke the decision.
Morgan Ortagus, State Department spokesperson said in a statement that the closure was “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to clarify what set off the choice when pushed on the issue during a news preparation in Copenhagen, where he was meeting with Danish authorities. But he raised long-standing U.S. accusations that China’s government steals American intellectual property.
He likewise raised the Department of Justice’s prosecution Tuesday of two Chinese programmers accused of taking proprietary advantages from many worldwide targets and examining for vulnerabilities in U.S. organizations associated with the development of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.
“President Trump has said, ‘Enough,’ ” Pompeo said. “We’re not going to allow this to continue to happen.”
The Chinese Embassy in Washington said in a statement, “The U.S. accusations are groundless fabrications.”
Houston has about 60 employees and there are six other Chinese diplomatic missions in the United States: the embassy in Washington, an official at the United Nations and consulates in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago.
The F.B.I. has issued an arrest warrant for a Chinese student or researcher, Tang Juan, who sought refuge in the San Francisco department after American agents found she had not revealed her connection with the Chinese military and executed a court order to hold onto her electronic gadgets, as indicated by the seven-page report. Chinese representatives over the United States have helped military officials conceal their characters, said John C. Demers, the associate lawyer general for national security. (Axios first investigated Ms. Tang on Wednesday.)
The closing of the consulate in Houston may be less detrimental to the United States’ relations with Beijing than shutting down a different one would be. It is the “sister” political-strategic the American office in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus episode previously developed. The State Department emptied its office in Wuhan after the underlying episode; it isn’t clear when it may completely revive.
Mr. Wang called the move illegal under international law and described it as the latest in a series of aggressions.
In an interview with Fox News, Rubio said it’s normal procedure to start destroying documents when an embassy or consulate is closed. “For us, the Marines are in charge of doing that if someone closes our embassy. So they’ll burn documents and shred documents and destroy computers and so forth,” He said he expects China to close a U.S. diplomatic facility in China in retaliation.
But Trump recommended there was something loathsome about the fires, “I surmise they were consuming archives,” he said during a White House preparation on the coronavirus pandemic. “I wonder what that is about.”