US President Donald Trump has indicated that it was “always possible” he would order the closure of more Chinese consulates in the United States after the US gave Beijing 72 hours to shut its consulate in Houston further souring ties between the two countries.
Trump, at a White House news conference on Wednesday, noted that a fire had been spotted on the Houston consulate’s grounds after the US Department of State ordered the closure.
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“I guess they were burning documents and burning papers,” he said.
China has condemned the closure as “an unprecedented escalation” that would sabotage relations between the two countries.
The South China Morning Post reported on Thursday that Beijing could retaliate by shutting down the US consulate in the Chinese city of Chengdu. It cited an official briefed on the decision.
Chinese state media angrily reacted to the move as an attempt to blame Beijing for American failures ahead of presidential elections in November.
The official English-language newspaper China Daily on Thursday described the move as “a new gambit in the US administration’s bid to paint China as a malevolent actor on the world stage, and thus make it an outlaw to the international community”.
“The move shows that lagging behind his presidential election opponent in the polls… the US leader is going all out in his attempts to portray China as an agent of evil,” it added.
The Global Times, an English-language tabloid run by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper, also accused Trump of playing politics. “The November presidential election is driving Washington mad,” it said.
In a statement earlier on Wednesday, Morgan Ortagus, spokeswoman for the US Department of State, said Washington directed the Houston consulate’s closure “in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information”.