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CHINA ORDERS CLOSURE OF US CONSULATE IN CHENGDU

'Legitimate' Retaliation For Forced Shutdown Of Diplomatic Outpost In Houston

nikki

The Chinese foreign ministry on Friday directed the U.S. to close its consulate general in the southwestern city of Chengdu, pictured here in 2012. © AFP/Jiji

The Chinese foreign ministry on Friday informed the U.S. embassy that it had revoked authorization for the American consulate general in the southwestern city of Chengdu.

The move comes in response to Washington's closure order on Tuesday to the Chinese consulate in Houston.

"The measure taken by China is legitimate and necessary response to the unjustified act by the U.S.," the foreign ministry said in a statement on its website. "It conforms with international law, the basic norms of international relations and customary diplomatic practices."

The statement did not say how soon the U.S. consulate would have to be vacated.

"The U.S. is responsible for all this," the ministry said. "We once again urge the U.S. to immediately retract its wrong decision and create necessary conditions for bringing the bilateral relationship back on track."

The U.S. had given China just three days' notice to evacuate its diplomatic outpost in Houston. Chinese diplomats and local media had warned that Beijing would retaliate for the move against the Houston mission, which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday called "a hub of spying and intellectual property theft."

The Chengdu mission played a role in the scandal that brought down Bo Xilai, the disgraced former rival to President Xi Jinping: a top police official and deputy to Bo in 2012 sought asylum at the consulate, which is also used by the U.S. to monitor the sensitive situation in Tibet. The consulate, opened in 1985, is staffed by about 200 employees, according to its website. 

The tit-for-tat closure orders come amid escalating tensions between the world's two biggest economies. U.S. President Donald Trump had said Wednesday that he might order other Chinese missions to shut too.