U.S. designates Chinese body a foreign mission, quits local cooperation agreement

FILE PHOTO: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Yorba Linda, California. Ashley Landis/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Wednesday it was designating a U.S. branch of a Chinese government-controlled organization as a foreign mission and withdrawing from an agreement to promote local-level cooperation between the countries.

The moves announced by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were the latest to curb Chinese activity in the United States in the run-up to next Tuesday’s presidential election, in which President Donald Trump has made a tough approach to China a key foreign policy theme.

A statement from Pompeo said the designated organization, the National Association for China’s Peaceful Unification (NACPU), was controlled by China’s United Front Work Department, a Chinese Communist Party body charged with spreading its influence and propaganda overseas.

“The goal of this action is to shine a light on this organization and make clear that their messages come from Beijing,” the statement said.

It said the United States was also discontinuing participation in a 2011 memorandum of understanding between U.S. and Chinese governments concerning establishment of a U.S-China Governors Forum to Promote Sub-National Cooperation.

It said that since the signing of the MOU, Beijing’s Chinese Peoples’ Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), had “sought to directly and malignly influence” U.S. state and local leaders to promote China’s global agenda.

“CPAFFC’s actions have undermined the Governors Forum’s original well-intentioned purpose,” it said.

Last week Pompeo said the State Department was designating the U.S. operations of six more China-based media companies as foreign missions, a move he said was aimed at pushing back against communist propaganda.

China vowed retaliation and its foreign ministry said on Monday it had ordered six U.S. media outlets to report back on their operations in the country within seven days.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Jonathan Oatis