Chinese Embassy officials who drove onto a military base in Norfolk, Va., in late September have been kicked out of the U.S., the first such expulsion since 1987.
Two embassy officials and their wives entered a base that includes Special Operations forces, The New York Times reported on Sunday. The officials drove to a base checkpoint, and when they were denied entry, were allowed to pull in just to turn around and exit, people familiar with the incident told The Times.
The two countries were in the middle of tense trade negotiations at the time. They agreed to a "phase one" deal last week.
When fire trucks blocked them from driving deeper into the base, the officials blamed the situation on their lack of English understanding.
One of the men was an intelligence officer operating under diplomatic cover, The Times reported. Chinese officials with such protections have been arriving unannounced at government facilities more and more, American officials told The Times.
The Chinese Embassy officials' expulsions appear to be the first since the U.S. expelled two Chinese Embassy employees with diplomatic cover more than 30 years ago.
The State Department also tightened restrictions on Chinese diplomats on Oct. 16, claiming it was a reaction to Chinese regulations that went into effect years ago. The Chinese Embassy pushed back and said the restrictions violated the Vienna Convention, according to The Times.