Asia Pacific / Politics

China slams U.S. restrictions on Chinese diplomats as 'groundless'

Washington announced the decision in response to the inability of U.S. diplomats to meet with a range of Chinese officials and academics

AFP-JIJI

China on Thursday slammed as “groundless” a U.S. decision to order Chinese diplomats to notify the State Department before meeting with local officials, in the latest spat to strain bilateral relations.

Washington — which called the move “reciprocal” — announced the decision Wednesday in response to the inability of U.S. diplomats to meet with a range of Chinese officials and academics, a senior State Department official said, speaking anonymously.

“What the U.S. has said about China restricting the activities of U.S. diplomats is simply groundless,” said foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, adding that China “consistently supported” U.S. diplomats in the country.

“We urge the U.S. to correct its mistakes, revoke the relevant decision, and provide support and convenience for Chinese diplomats in the U.S. … rather than artificially setting up barriers,” he told reporters at a news briefing in Beijing.

The move comes as Washington and Beijing — the world’s two largest economies — are locked in a bitter trade dispute.

A partial deal is now being put in writing, President Donald Trump said Wednesday, while Beijing said both sides were working towards “an early agreement.”

“Unfortunately in China, U.S. diplomats do not have unfettered access to a range of folks that are important for us to do our job there,” the U.S. official told reporters.

“That includes local and provincial level officials, academic institutions, research institutes,” the official said. “We have to seek permission and such permission is often denied.”

Chinese diplomats will henceforth be required to tell the State Department in advance of any official meetings with U.S. diplomats, local or municipal officials, and before any visits to colleges or research institutions.

“What we’re trying to achieve here is just to get closer to a reciprocal situation,” the official said, emphasizing that Chinese diplomats were not being asked to get “permission” for their visits.

The official said he hoped the measure would prompt Beijing to open up its own country a bit more to U.S. diplomats.

The U.S. and China are also at odds over intellectual property rights and human rights questions including freedom of speech.

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