China on Friday ordered the United States to close its consulate in Chengdu city, less than a week after Beijing was asked to shut down its consulate in Houston, Texas, over allegations of espionage and unethical practices, AP reported.

China said that its retaliatory action against the US was necessary and legitimate. “The current situation in Chinese-US relations is not what China desires to see,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement, according to the news agency. “The United States is responsible for all this. We once again urge the United States to immediately retract its wrong decision and create necessary conditions for bringing the bilateral relationship back on track.”

The US consulate in Chengdu was established in 1985, according to the official website. The consulate has a staff strength of 200.

The US government had said that it had closed the Chinese consulate in Houston to protect American intellectual property and information. China had called the order an “unprecedented escalation” and accused the US of harassing Chinese diplomats and consular staff.

The relations between US and China have become increasingly strained amid the coronavirus pandemic, with President Donald Trump repeatedly blaming the country for the uncontrollable spread of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that all free nations must come together to counter China’s aggression and influence. Pompeo also accused China of breaching its international commitments on Hong Kong and South China sea.

US charges four Chinese nationals with visa fraud

The US on Thursday charged four Chinese with visa fraud for falsely declaring that they were members of the People’s Liberation Army and applying for research permits. Three of them have been arrested.

“This is another part of the Chinese Communist Party’s plan to take advantage of our open society and exploit academic institutions,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C Demers was quoted as saying in a statement. “We will continue to conduct this investigation together with the FBI.”