US Evacuates 2 More Diplomats Over Odd Noises at Consulate in China

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The U.S. State Department has sent "a number of individuals" from the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China back to the U.S. after screenings showed they may have been affected by mysterious health problems similar to what diplomats experienced in Cuba.

The State Department has warned that USA diplomats should alert their mission's medical staff "if they note new onset of symptoms that may have begun in association with experiencing unidentified auditory sensations". One case in Guangzhou had been disclosed last month.

While US authorities have only confirmed that one staffer has been affected so far, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Wednesday they had commissioned optional health screenings for all Guangzhou personnel.

"We recommend that the USA should not come to a conclusion too quickly that their consulate employees are attacked by external actors, but should conduct an investigation to look for an internal cause", the editorial said.

An editorial in Beijing's state-run Global Times newspaper said: "Practically all Chinese people do not believe that this country's official organisations would carry out such sonic attacks against U.S. diplomats".

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

Many other employees at the US Consulate in Guangzhou are being tested, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing officials, by a State Department medical team that has been flown in.

The State Department acknowledged the Lenzi incident late last month.

The U.S. requested Chinese assistance in its investigation, but on Thursday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said China had conducted a thorough investigation of its own, and found nothing.

China's government said Thursday that it investigated and could not find anything to cause the described symptoms, NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing.

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People working in The Canton Place complex, a few miles from the consulate, said they were just hearing about the incidents, reflecting a lack of coverage in China's entirely state-controlled media.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he's created a health care task force to look into "the unexplained health incidents that have affected a number of USA government personnel and family members stationed overseas".

US experts have said they know of no technology that would explain the symptoms.

David Rank, the former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, said if there is an "implication or evidence that this was a state organized activity", it would have a "much bigger impact on our relations".

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

The Embassy Beijing and five USA consulates in China, she said, held "townhall meetings" on May 23 "to allow employees to ask questions and raise concerns directly with senior leadership".

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

It serves four southern provinces with a combined population of more than 204 million and processes more than 1 million visa applications of all types annually. "China will ensure the safety of foreign diplomatic staff in China, including those from the United States, in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations".

"This is very unusual", it added. It is also the only United States diplomatic installation in China authorised to process immigrant visas and handle adoptions.

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