China condemned an order to close it consulate in the US city of Houston as a "political provocation" that will make diplomatic relations worse. Beijing has threatened retaliation for the surprise decision.
The United States has "abruptly" ordered China to close its Houston consulate, Beijing said Wednesday.The Texas-based consulate received the order to cease all operations on Tuesday.
"China urges the US to immediately withdraw its wrong decision or China will definitely take a proper and necessary response," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin.
"Such an outrageous and unjustified move that will sabotage China-US relations," Wang said.
The consulate staff had been ordered to leave within 72 hours, tweeted Hu Xijin, editor of the Chinese state-owned English-language newspaper the Global Times.
Speaking later Wednesday, US President Donald Trump said it was "always possible" that other Chinese missions could be shutdown too.
US accuses China of spying
US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the closure was ordered to protect American intellectual property and Americans' private information.
Under the Vienna Convention, states "have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs" of the receiving state, Ortagus said.
In a separate statement, the State Department alleged that China had "engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations," targeting both officials and citizens.
The "scale and scope" of these actions had increased in recent years, the statement added.
Which US consulate will China close?
Chinese state-owned English-language newspaper The Global Times tweeted a poll, asking readers to guess which US consulate in China is most likely to be shuttered in response to the Houston closure.
The poll provided a choice of consulates for Hong Kong and Macau, the southern city of Guangzhou, the provincial capital of Szechuan, Chengdu, as well as the option of "other."
Wang said that the consulate was operating as normal, following local media reports in Houston on Tuesday night that documents were being burned in a courtyard at the facility.
Tensions between China and the US have worsened this year. President Donald Trump has repeatedly blamed Beijing for the coronavirus pandemic, which is believed to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The two countries have also been at odds over Hong Kong's autonomy and Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea.
kmm,dr/msh (Reuters, dpa, AP)