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Pompeo reacts after US closes Chinese consulate in Houston

Published: Updated:

US President Donald Trump will continue to take actions over China that “protect the American people,” their national security and economy, says US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says in a press conference with Denmark’s Foreign Minister during a visit to Copenhagen.

The United States has ordered China to close its consulate in Houston and accused it of ramping up spying operations, dramatically escalating diplomatic tensions between the feuding superpowers.

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Wednesday’s announcement infuriated Beijing, which vowed to retaliate as the two countries squabble over a slew of issues ranging from trade to the coronavirus pandemic -- and China’s policies in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the South China Sea.

“We have directed the closure of PRC Consulate General Houston in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters during a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Denmark.

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She added that under the Vienna Convention, states “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs” of the receiving state, but there were no further details about the reasons behind the decision.

In another statement, the State Department said China has engaged in massive spying and influence operations throughout the United States for years.

“These activities have increased markedly in scale and scope over the past few years,” it said.

Before the news emerged, firefighters and police were called Tuesday evening to the consulate building in Texas on reports that documents were being burned in trashcans the courtyard, according to local media.

The Twitter feed of the Houston police force said smoke was observed, but officers “were not granted access to enter the building.”