China has vowed to retaliate after the US ordered it to cease all operations and events at its consulate in Houston, Texas, USA Today reports.
On Tuesday, Wang Webin, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, said that the US told China it had 72 hours to close the consulate. Later that evening, Houston police reports of smoke near the consulate and local news stations shared videos of what appear to be officials burning documents, according to CNN.
State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said that the United States ordered the closure “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information,” USA Today reports. The State Department further added that China has engaged in “illegal spying and influence operations” for years. They say those operations have increased significantly over the past few years.
Wenbin called the closure an “unprecedented escalation” and said that China would “react with firm countermeasures” if the order was not revoked.
The move comes just a day after the United States allegedly charged two Chinese hackers for participating in a supposedly government-sponsored “sweeping global computer intrusion campaign.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brought up the charges when discussing the closure, but declined to comment officially on what triggered the order, USA Today reports. He instead emphasized that China has had a long history of spying on the United States.
“President Trump has said, ‘Enough,’ ” Pompeo said. “We’re not going to allow this to continue to happen.”
In his press conference, President Trump implied that there was something suspicious about the videos of the fires, according to USA Today.
“I guess they were burning documents,” he said during a White House briefing on the coronavirus pandemic. “I wonder what that’s all about.”
He said that it is possible he may close more consulates.
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