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US says it welcomes Chinese for 'legitimate' studies

[WASHINGTON] The United States said on Monday it was committed to welcoming Chinese nationals for "legitimate" studies but acknowledged increased visa scrutiny after Beijing warned its students of risks.

"We welcome Chinese students and scholars to the United States to conduct legitimate academic activities," a State Department spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman said, however, that the United States had identified "an increasing number of instances" in which foreign intelligence co-opts students during their time in the United States.

"At the same time, we're committed to providing the highest quality service to legitimate travellers - who constitute the overwhelming majority of our visa applicants - so they can receive swift, thorough and clear decisions regarding their visa applications," she said.

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China earlier on Monday warned its students and academics of the "risk" of studying in the United States, citing an uptick in visa denials and delays.

The new guidance comes amid a surge in commercial tensions between the world's two largest economies, with the United States cracking down on premier Chinese tech company Huawei, citing security concerns due to its cozy ties with the government.

A decrease in Chinese students could be costly to the United States. China is the biggest source of international students on US campuses, with 360,000 attending last year - and many pay costly full tuition.

AFP