USA orders closure of Chinese consulate in Houston, angering Beijing

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China says the US 'abruptly demanded' the closure of its consulate in Houston

Further, US President Donald Trump also threatened more consulate closures, telling reporters "it's always possible".

"We thought there was a fire in one that we did close", Trump said. "There's a fire.' And I guess they were burning documents or burning papers, and I wonder what that's all about", he said.

"Remember though tariffs that were imposed, those haven't worked, so trying to close consulates and other facilities may have more of an effect on Beijing".

Beijing was considering shutting down the U.S. consulate in Wuhan in retaliation, said a source.

Reacting strongly to the USA move, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Wednesday termed it as an "unprecedented escalation and warned retaliatory measures". It called the move an "unprecedented escalation". There are five Chinese consulates in the United States, as well as the embassy in Washington.

Hussein Ismail, a researcher at Egypt State Information Service, said that the U.S. move is a unilateral political provocation, a serious violation of global law and basic norms governing worldwide relations, a reflection of the arrogance of the U.S. government and a destruction of China-U.S. relations.

"I think we're in a risky and precipitous spiral downward, not without cause, but without the proper diplomatic skills to arrest it", said Orville Schell, director of the Center on US-China Relations at the Asia Society.

On Wednesday, China confirmed the US abruptly requested on Tuesday that China close the consulate in Houston within 72 hours, sending bilateral relations to one of the lowest levels since diplomatic ties were normalized in 1979. "I would have done both (Houston and San Francisco) but it also makes sense to start with one", he told Reuters by text.

Beijing apparently is looking at options to order the closure of the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan or in Hong Kong, where the Chinese officials had accused the U.S. of backing the anti-China protests. It said Hong Kong could face visa limits and economic measures similar to China. "We'll continue to engage in those".

Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that shutting down the Houston consulate "had to happen" and claimed he was a "central node of the Party's vast network of spies Communist".

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Washington and Beijing have been negotiating for weeks over the terms of how to send US diplomats back amid disagreement over COVID-19 testing and quarantine procedures, as well as frequency of flights and how many each can carry.

"We took a practical step to prevent them from doing that", Stilwell told the Times. The mission played a role in the scandal that brought down Bo Xilai - a now-disgraced former rival to President Xi Jinping - as Bo's deputy sought to defect there, and it is also used by the U.S.to monitor the sensitive situation in Tibet.

The U.S. gave Chinese officials at the consulate 72 hours to move out before being evicted. Sen.

He also said that the Chinese Embassy in Washington has received bomb and death threats, and accused the USA government of fanning hatred against China.

U.S. -China ties have deteriorated sharply this year over issues ranging from the coronavirus and telecoms-gear maker Huawei to China's territorial claims in the South China Sea and its clampdown on Hong Kong.

Washington and Beijing added to the long list of issues they have butted heads over when the U.S. ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston within 72 hours. Trump himself said more closures could be coming if China doesn't change its behavior.

Stilwell said that some of China's attempted scientific thefts in the United States had accelerated over the last six months, and could be related to efforts to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus - although he again presented no evidence.

Prosecutors said the Tang case demonstrates that the Chinese consulate in San Francisco "provides a potential safe harbor for a PLA official intent on avoiding prosecution in the United States".

China immediately raised the prospect of retaliation.

In contrast, the US imposed unjustified restrictions on Chinese diplomatic personnel last October and in June, unscrupulously and repeatedly opened China's diplomatic pouches and seized China's official goods.

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