Pompeo Says Mysterious Sickness Among Diplomats in Cuba Has Spread to China

Pompeo Says Mysterious Sickness Among Diplomats in Cuba Has Spread to China

WASHINGTON — The same symptoms of a mysterious attack that sickened American diplomats in Cuba have been reported at a United States consulate in southern China, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told lawmakers on Wednesday.

At least one American government employee in China recently reported what the State Department’s consulate in Guangzhou described as subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure.

“The medical indications are very similar and entirely consistent with the medical indications that have taken place to Americans working in Cuba,” Mr. Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

He said medical teams were heading to Guangzhou to address what he described as one incident.

“We are working to figure out what took place, both in Havana and now in China as well,” Mr. Pompeo said.

Twenty-four United States personnel in Havana suffered a slew of health problems that resemble those that result from mild brain trauma such as a concussion, including sharp ear pain, dull headaches, tinnitus, vertigo, disorientation, nausea and extreme fatigue.

The Cubans repeatedly denied any responsibility for the problems and decried the plunge in relations with the United States under Mr. Trump.

Whether the government of Cuba is at fault for the illnesses has long been a matter of dispute, with even some federal investigators finding Cuba’s denials credible. Some senators briefed on the issue speculated that another foreign power may have used a device, perhaps intended for surveillance, that caused the problems.

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, frequently dismissed the notion that Cuba could have been unaware of what American diplomats termed an “attack.”

“The idea that someone could put together some sort of action against them, 24 of them, and the Cuban government not know who did it, it’s just impossible,” Mr. Rubio said in a Senate hearing in January.

That argument is just as applicable in China, a totalitarian state that tracks American diplomats closely.

Mr. Rubio and others also speculated that another foreign power, perhaps Russia, had been behind or part of the Havana attack. With similar problems appearing elsewhere in the world, that argument will likely gain steam, as the Cubans are unlikely to have the capacity to engage in similar attacks elsewhere in the world.

After the Havana embassy staff members fell ill, Mr. Trump expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from the United States, the most serious of a series of actions he has undertaken to unwind the new diplomacy between the countries that was opened by President Barack Obama.

Mr. Pompeo said the Trump administration has asked the Chinese government for assistance in an investigation, “and they have committed to honoring their commitments under the Vienna convention.”

The Vienna convention requires that countries protect diplomats stationed in their nations.

More than a year after the mystery attacks began in Cuba, there are few indications that American investigators are any closer to identifying what may have caused the problem. Early speculation that a sonic device may have been involved has largely been dismissed.

Wednesday’s disclosure adds another issue to a growing list of potentially difficult problems that the United States has with China, including ongoing trade disputes, increasingly aggressive Chinese efforts in the South China Seas, and negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

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