The US government will pay for the repairs of the Chinese consulate building in San Francisco, damaged in an arson attack on New Year’s Day, consulate officials have said.
Restoration work had begun at the consulate after Chinese officials were told of the arrest of a suspect on Friday evening local time by the US Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and that the US government would pick up the bill, consulate staff told the Chinese media.
The identity of the suspect has yet to be disclosed. FBI has said it would provide details at a Tuesday press conference.
The consulate said it would replace the scorched front doors, the national emblem hung above it, and two decorative stone lions flanking the doorway.
The FBI had said earlier that the fire was set intentionally, but was unlikely to be an act of terrorism.
FBI spokesman Peter Lee said the fire that charred the building’s main entrance was caused by a “gas-based device with accelerants” and there was no sign of an explosion.
A similar fire outside the consulate in May, 2008 was not linked to the latest attack, Lee said. He did not know whether the consulate had recently received any threats, said the FBI spokesman.
China’s ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, called the arson“a very serious crime” and pointed out that US authorities had failed to bring to justice those responsible for previous attacks against Chinese diplomatic institutions in the country.
The spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Qin Gang, refused to speculate on the identity of the culprits at a regular press conference on Friday, and declined to comment on reports that that a “human rights in Tibet” sign was left at the scene.
China had demanded that the United States ensure safety of its diplomats following the attack.
Surveillance footage showed a man emerging from a minivan and pouring two buckets of petrol on the doorway of the consulate before setting it alight on Wednesday night local time, according to the Wang Chuan, a spokesman for the consulate.