China has told the US to close its consulate in the western city of Chengdu in the latest development in an increasingly tense diplomatic conflict.
It comes after the US ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, prompting China’s foreign ministry to appeal to Washington to reverse its “erroneous” decision.
The US has an embassy in Beijing and consulates in five other mainland cities — Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenyang and Wuhan, while it also has a consulate in Hong Kong.
The closure order comes as the US Justice Department announced charges against a Chinese scientist it claims is being harboured by China’s consulate in San Francisco.
The researcher and three others are accused of lying on applications to work in the United States about their status as members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which is part of the Chinese military.
The allegation comes amid rising tension between the US and China, particularly related to theft of intellectual property — including by Chinese researchers with military and government connections — for Beijing’s benefit.
The US has also charged two Chinese hackers with targeting firms working on vaccines for the coronavirus.
Trump administration officials have escalated their public condemnations of China in the last several weeks, with speeches by FBI director Chris Wray, Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.