Chinese authorities on Monday took control of the building that hosted the American consulate in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu, at a time of growing tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

The Chinese regime ordered the mission to be closed in retaliation for the U.S. decision to close the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas.

The closure of consulates marks a significant escalation in the multiple disputes between the two countries, ranging from trade and technology to human rights or the sovereignty of the South China Sea.

The US State Department expressed “disappointment” and recalled that the consulate “has been at the center of (…) relations with the people of western China, including Tibet, for 35 years”.

“We are disappointed with the decision of the Chinese Communist Party and will endeavor to continue to reach people in this important region, through our other posts in China,” reads the statement.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a brief warning stating that the “competent authorities” entered the front entrance and took over the premises, after US diplomats left.

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