China lodges stern representations with U.S. over expelling Chinese officials

FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags are arranged during the third annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) at the State Department in Washington May 9, 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has lodged stern representations with the United States over the expelling of Chinese officials, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular briefing in Beijing on Monday.

The U.S. government covertly moved to expel two officials from the Chinese embassy earlier this year after they drove onto a military base, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

One of the two Chinese officials is believed to be an intelligence officer operating under diplomatic cover, the report said.

“The U.S.accusations against Chinese personnel severely disregard reality,” said Geng.

The Chinese officials breached security at a base in Virginia this fall, and only stopped driving after fire trucks were used to block their path, the Times said.

The United States in recent years has stepped up efforts to combat concerns about suspected spying by the Chinese.

A law enforcement official familiar with the episode confirmed to Reuters that the account in the Times is accurate.

“We strongly urge the U.S. to correct its mistake, cancel the relevant decision and protect Chinese personnel’s proper rights according to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” said Geng, referring to an international treaty on diplomatic privileges.

Reporting by Huizhong Wu; Writing by Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Himani Sarkar & Shri Navaratnam