US diplomat illnesses in China revive 'mystery weapon' fears

US diplomat illnesses in China revive 'mystery weapon' fears

The U.S. has pulled two more workers from its embassy in Cuba amid concerns that they may have been affected by the same mysterious health incidents as other employees in Havana as well as China.

"The State Department received medical confirmation that a US government employee in China suffered a medical incident consistent with what other USA government personnel experienced in Havana, Cuba", the statement said, reiterating comments made last month by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The State Department said on Friday the cases were similar to those of 24 diplomats and family members taken ill through 2017, leading to a drawdown of personnel in Havana to a skeleton staff and the expulsion of 17 Cuban diplomats from Washington.

"If the U.S. makes formal contact with us, China will continue necessary investigations in an earnest and responsible manner and maintain close communication and cooperation with the U.S.", Hua said at a regularly scheduled news conference. It is also the only USA diplomatic installation in China authorized to process immigrant visas and handle adoptions.

The official explained that out of privacy considerations, no further details could be provided, but noted that an update will be provided when the medical evaluations are complete.

USA experts have yet to determine who or what was behind the mysterious illnesses that affected 24 people.

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Those affected have suffered a range of symptoms including hearing loss, dizziness, fatigue, cognitive issues and sleep loss. It urged them "not to attempt to locate the source of any unidentified auditory sensation".

Asked about the latest incidents, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the US had not formally raised the matter with Beijing.

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

Of the roughly 170 American consulate staffers and family members in Guangzhou, about 150 sought the offered preliminary medical examinations, according to officials familiar with the process.

Unlike the relatively small USA mission in Cuba, the US diplomatic presence in China is large with representatives from 33 different federal agencies employed at the embassy in Beijing and the five consulates on the mainland: Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang and Wuhan.

The alert comes as a US medical team is screening more Americans who work at the Guangzhou consulate.

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