After Houston, US hints at closing additional Chinese diplomatic missions

23 July, 2020 | Priyanka Sharma

US President Donald Trump World

US State Department has ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, Texas by Friday over accusations that it engaged in massive illegal spying and influence operations in the US for years.

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday (local time) that his administration does not rule out closing additional Chinese diplomatic missions in the United States. “As far as closing additional embassies, it’s always possible. We thought there was a fire in the one we did close, I guess they were burning documents and papers. I wonder what that is all about,” Trump said during a daily press briefing at the White House when asked if he planned to close more Chinese diplomatic missions in the country.

Earlier on Wednesday, the US State Department ordered China to close by Friday its consulate in Houston, Texas, over accusations that it engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations in the US.

Regarding the same, State Secretary Mike Pompeo said, “It’s not just American intellectual property been stolen, it’s been European intellectual property too, causing hundreds – costing hundreds of thousands of jobs, good jobs for hard-working people all across Europe and America stolen by the Chinese Communist Party.”

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“We are setting out clear expectations for how the Chinese Communist Party is going to behave, and when they do not, we are going to take actions that protect the American people, protect our security, our national security, and also protect our economy and jobs. That’s the actions that you’re seeing taken by President Trump. We will continue to engage in those,” Pompeo told reporters further.

On Tuesday, the US Department of Justice convicted two Chinese nationals of spying charges for targeting computer networks of biotech firms around the world working on coronavirus vaccines, technology and treatments.

The 11-count indictment alleged that the two former computer engineers, identified as Li Xiaoyu, 34, and Dong Jiazhi, 33, conducted a hacking campaign lasting more than ten years to the present, targeting companies in countries with high technology industries, including the US, Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

It was also alleged that the two had hacked companies engaged in high-tech manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and gaming software development, and with targeting dissidents, clergy and human rights activists in the US, China, and Hong Kong.

Relations between the US and China have worsened in recent times over a range of issues. China’s move to impose national security law in Hong Kong, its human rights violation in Xinjiang and territorial aggression in the South China Sea have all drawn fierce criticism from Washington.

Accusing China of bullying smaller countries, US Defence Secretary Mark T Esper on Tuesday vowed to deter against China’s “coercive behaviour” in the South China Sea.

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