Chinese officials denied the US allegations that the Chinese Consulate General in Houston, Texas was a hub for spies [Adrees Latif/Reuters]

China has said the US move to close its Houston consulate this week “severely harmed” relations and warned it “must” retaliate, without detailing what it would do.

Washington on Tuesday gave China 72 hours to close the consulate amid allegations of widespread spying – a dramatic escalation of tension between the world’s two biggest economies.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin described the United States’s allegations as “malicious slander” and said the “unreasonable” move had “severely harmed” relations.

“China must make a necessary response and safeguard its legitimate rights,” he said, declining to specify any measures.

“This is tearing down the friendly

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