Washington ordered China to close its consulate in Houston to protect Americans from intellectual property theft, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
"The United States will not tolerate [China’s] violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people, just as we have not tolerated [its] unfair trade practices, theft of American jobs, and other egregious behavior," said State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.
The closure of China’s Houston consulate is the latest move in a weeks-long escalation of tensions between the United States and China over geopolitics, technological interference, global health, and human rights. Many expect the confrontation to only further escalate with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s planned speech at the Nixon Library in California on Thursday.
The announcement comes a day after Houston firefighters responded to a call at the consulate, where papers were allegedly being burned. The firefighters, however, were denied entry.
"The unilateral closure of China’s consulate general in Houston within a short period of time is an unprecedented escalation of its recent actions against China," said foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin. Wang said if the decision is not reversed, firm countermeasures will follow.
In late January, the United States closed its Wuhan consulate—one of five consulates in China—along with its embassy in Beijing. The Trump administration announced it has no plans to reopen the Wuhan consulate.
Recent remarks from high-ranking national security officials indicate a shift in America’s stance toward China, while the Xi regime’s own statements do the same. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi recently asserted that the Sino-American relationship is as tense now as at any point since 1979 and that the countries may face irreconcilable differences.