China on Monday threatened to retaliate against a US rule that tightening visa restrictions on Chinese journalists, in an escalating row after Beijing expelled more than a dozen American reporters.

Citing China’s treatment of the reporters, the US Homeland Security Department issued new regulations on Friday limiting visas for Chinese journalists to a maximum 90-day stay, with the possibility to request an extension.

Chinese flags and American flags are displayed in a company in Beijing on August 16, 2017. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP.

Until now visas for Chinese journalists lasted for the duration of their employment in the United States.

“We express our strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to this wrong action by the US side, which is an escalation of the political crackdown on Chinese media,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a daily press briefing.

“We ask the US to correct its mistake immediately, otherwise China will have no other option but to take countermeasures,” Zhao said, without providing more details about the possible retaliation.

The tit-for-tat actions against journalists have added to searing diplomatic tensions, with the two countries trading barbs over the coronavirus pandemic and US President Donald Trump threatening to impose fresh trade tariffs on Beijing.

In February, China kicked out three journalists from The Wall Street Journal after the newspaper ran an opinion piece on the coronavirus crisis with a headline that Beijing called racist.

US embassy in Beijing. photo: SOM.com

Weeks later, Washington curbed the number of Chinese nationals from state-run news outlets in the United States.

Beijing responded in March by expelling more than a dozen American journalists from the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

Foreign journalists working in China receive one-year visas that must be renewed every year.

But in an annual report, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) said at least a dozen correspondents were issued press credentials valid for half a year or less.

The report said Chinese authorities were “using visas as weapons against the foreign press like never before.”

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