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China calls expulsion of diplomats from US a 'mistake'

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Mr Geng said Beijing had lodged "solemn representations and protests to the US" and called for Washington to "protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese diplomats".

[BEIJING] China on Monday called the expulsion of diplomats from the US a "mistake", following reports that Washington quietly expelled two embassy officials in September after they drove onto a sensitive military base in Virginia.

The incident is the latest spat between the world's two biggest economies and comes days after they announced a truce in the form of a mini-deal to reduce some tariffs in a bruising trade war which has weighed on both sides.

Commenting on The New York Times report, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang called the accusations "completely contrary to the facts" and said they "strongly urge the United States to correct its mistake".

Mr Geng said Beijing had lodged "solemn representations and protests to the US" and called for Washington to "protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese diplomats".

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The incident appeared to be the first time in more than 30 years that the US has expelled Chinese diplomats on suspicion of espionage, the newspaper said Sunday, citing people familiar with the episode.

At least one of the diplomats was believed to be an intelligence officer operating under cover, the Times said.

AFP