A former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has said the fallout from the Edward Snowden case could be extremely damaging to U.S.-China relations.
Michael Hayden, principal at security consultancy the Chertoff Group and former director of both the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA), told CNBC on Wednesday that the Hong Kong government's refusal to hand over fugitive U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, would "absolutely" damage the progress the two nations have made so far towards a stronger relationship.
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"Actions have consequences. This is a country with whom we are attempting to build good relations in the long term for both of our peoples. If that country [China] pays so little attention to an item of such great interest to the U.S. that is bound to hurt that trajectory we want to be on," said Chertoff.
"Part of this is emotion, this is a great embarrassment for my country. But part of this is raw calculation," said Hayden referring to China's decision to let Snowden escape from Hong Kong.
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Snowden, who worked as a systems administrator at a U.S. National Security Agency facility in Hawaii, is facing espionage charges from the United States after leaking details about secret U.S. surveillance programs to the news media, Reuters reported.
Snowden is now reported to be in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has also refused to hand him over to U.S. authorities.
Experts on both sides have said the tirade will blow over soon and neither country would let relations deteriorate permanently after a successful meeting between Barack Obama and Xi Jinping just six weeks ago.
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But Hayden said Hong Kong's refusal to comply with the U.S. had caused "great harm" in three ways.