U.S. says China will ensure diplomats' safety after illness reports

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will ensure U.S. diplomats based in the country are safe, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday, amid reports that some had suffered a mysterious malady resembling a brain injury that has already hit U.S. personnel in Cuba.

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Speaking in Beijing, Pompeo said he raised what he referred to as a “health incident” during his meeting with the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi.

“I asked the Chinese to continue to cooperate with us and figure out how it happened, how it came to be and to work with us to conduct an investigation sufficient that we can prevent it from happening again,” Pompeo said.

He said Wang committed to providing full support to ensure the safety of American diplomats.

Wang, standing next to Pompeo at a joint news conference, said China has guaranteed the safety of all diplomats according to law, including Americans, and will continue to do so.

“We have already conducted an investigation into this so-called mysterious sound,” he said.

“I can tell everyone that currently we have not discovered any clues or reasons for the situation the U.S. side has mentioned,” adding that China was willing to maintain communications with the United States to resolve the issue.

The U.S. State Department last week issued an expanded health alert for all of China, amid reports of the mysterious illness.

A previous statement in May only mentioned the southern city of Guangzhou as the location for the health alert, though it was sent to U.S. citizens throughout the country.

The State Department had confirmed earlier that one U.S. employee assigned to the consulate in Guangzhou had “suffered a medical incident”, and that it had deployed a team to screen employees and family members there.

Last year, 24 U.S. government employees and family members in Cuba displayed the symptoms, which were similar to those related to concussion and mild traumatic brain injury, according to the State Department.

The illnesses among the American diplomats stationed in Havana heightened tension between the old Cold War foes.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez