Amid heightened tensions, second batch of US diplomats fly back to China
NEW YORK (US) – According to internal State Department emails, more than 100 US diplomats and family members flew to China on Wednesday. Washington has stressed on its plan to rearrange its diplomatic mission amid heightened bilateral tensions.
A chartered commercial aircraft departed from Dulles airport outside Washington for the South Korean capital, Seoul. Passengers would then be transferred to another aircraft equipped for medical operations before flying to the Chinese city of Guangzhou.
The flight, the second one required to return more than 1,200 US diplomats with their families, was the first after negotiations hit a deadlock two weeks ago as China wanted to impose a few conditions on the Americans. This prompted the State Department to postpone flights tentatively scheduled for the first 10 days of July.
The US is working to fully rearrange its staff for the mission in China, one of its largest in the world. A Department email dated Wednesday and viewed by Reuters said more flights were being arranged.
“For those still waiting to return, we are in the process of getting approvals from the Department for subsequent flights to Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Tianjin/Beijing in the coming weeks. Due to PRC regulations, these flights will be limited to a maximum of 120 passengers,” it said.
Bilateral relations have worsened to the lowest level in decades over issues including how China handled the coronavirus pandemic, bilateral trade and a new security law for Hong Kong.
Washington and Beijing have been involved in negotiations for weeks about how to bring US diplomats back. The issues that both parties found disagreements with have been testing and quarantine procedures as well the frequency of flights and the number of people one journey can bring back.
The US state department told it “continues to work towards the safe and secure return of all our diplomatic personnel to China in a manner consistent with the standards for diplomatic inviolability enshrined in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.”
The State Department internally told its staff Beijing gave the assurance that parents would not be separated from their children if they were diagnosed with the disease.
Diplomats say agreeing to be tested breaches the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The internal email said that adults and children of all ages should be prepared for COVID-19.
(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field.