The United States said on Wednesday it would now require senior Chinese diplomats to get State Department approval before visiting U.S. university campuses or holding cultural events with more than 50 people outside mission grounds, APA reports citing Reuters.
Washington cast the move as a response to what it said was Beijing’s restrictions on American diplomats based in China. It comes as part of a Trump administration campaign against alleged Chinese influence operations and espionage activity.
The State Department said it also would take action to help ensure all Chinese embassy and consular social media accounts were “properly identified.”
“We’re simply demanding reciprocity. Access for our diplomats in China should be reflective of the access that Chinese diplomats in the United States have, and today’s steps will move us substantially in that direction,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a news briefing.
It was the latest U.S. step to curb Chinese activity in the United States in the run-up to the November presidential election, in which President Donald Trump has made a tough approach to China a key foreign policy platform.
China’s Washington embassy called the move “yet another unjustified restriction and barrier on Chinese diplomatic and consular personnel” that “runs counter to the self-proclaimed values of openness and freedom of the U.S. side.”
Pompeo also said that Keith Krach, the State Department’s undersecretary for economic growth, had written recently to the governing boards of U.S. universities alerting them to threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party.
“These threats can come in the form of illicit funding for research, intellectual property theft, intimidation of foreign students and opaque talent recruitment efforts,” Pompeo said.
He said universities could ensure they had clean investments and endowment funds, “by taking a few key steps to disclose all (Chinese) companies’ investments invested in the endowment funds, especially those in emerging-market index funds.”
On Tuesday, Pompeo said he was hopeful that the dozens of Chinese Confucius Institute cultural centers on U.S. university campuses, which he accused of working to recruit “spies and collaborators,” would all be shut by the end of the year.
At the news briefing, Pompeo said he planned to discuss China and other regional issues with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other Indo-Pacific countries in virtual meetings next week.
The State Department said Pompeo would participate in an East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ meeting and another with his ASEAN counterparts on Sept. 9.
It said that on Sept. 11, he would launch a cooperation partnership with Mekong River partner countries, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, aimed at strengthening their autonomy, economic independence, and sustainable development.
Also that day, he will participate in a meeting of foreign ministers of the ASEAN Regional Forum, a 27-nation grouping bringing ASEAN together with dialogue partners from around the world.
Wednesday’s U.S. move goes further than one last October requiring Chinese diplomats to give advance notice of any meetings with state, local and municipal officials, as well as at educational and research institutions.
The State Department has also required Chinese media outlets to register as foreign missions and announced in March it was slashing the number of journalists allowed to work at U.S. offices of major Chinese media outlets to 100 from 160.