Sunday, 24 June, 2018

U.S. diplomats evacuated after 'hearing unusual noises in China'

RTX5GZ5A Sonic attack warning issued as US citizens fall ill in China | Daily Star
Gerardo Duncan | 08 June, 2018, 16:28

So far, 24 USA government personnel and family members who served in Cuba and one employee in China have suffered symptoms of the unusual sickness, the State department has said. They are in addition to a United States worker in Guangzhou who was evacuated earlier, as the Trump administration had already disclosed.

"Medical professionals will continue to conduct full evaluations to determine the cause of the reported symptoms and whether the findings are consistent with those noted in previously affected government personnel or possibly completely unrelated", she added. The task force, which was touted by Pompeo last month, will be an umbrella body to investigate, identify and treat the diplomatic staff and their close ones who were subjected to the attacks. Starting in 2016, US representatives in Cuba experienced hearing loss and and other cognitive problems usually associated with concussions and other trauma to the head.

After several months of frustrating non-responses from Cuban officials, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pulled almost all of the US embassy staff out of Havana, a step that has soured relations between the Trump administration and the Cuban government.

The U.S. retaliated by expelling Cuban diplomats.

Symptoms have included dizziness, headaches and an inability to concentrate.

Other employees at the American Consulate in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou and their family members are also being tested by a State Department medical team that has been flown in.

Security guards outside the Guangzhou consulate on Thursday told reporters to leave the area and not attempt to talk to consulate staff. Following the incident, the US State Department issued a health alert.

The Chinese foreign ministry said on Thursday that its investigation into the first case has not yielded any clues as to the cause of the incident. "We are working to figure out what took place both in Havana and now in China as well".

A US official, who wasn't authorized to discuss the situation publicly and requested anonymity, said the evacuated American government workers were being brought from China for testing to the University of Pennsylvania.

Aled Williams, a British teacher at a kindergarten said the reports sounded "sci-fi-ish".

'Hard to get my head around how it works, ' he said.

The unexplained health problems have already prompted the evacuation of a number of United States government employees from the southern city of Guangzhou, where a U.S. consulate is based.

A U.S. official said the evacuated Americans are being brought for testing to the University of Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, in southern China, officially opened in 1979 and moved to its current location in 2013. "China will ensure the safety of foreign diplomatic staff in China, including those from the U.S., in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations".

'For me I feel it's very odd. "This does not fit with China's basic concept and principles of diplomacy, and is inconceivable", the Global Times said in an editorial. "But I don't feel that there's something to be very afraid of because it's probably a very special case", Chen said.

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