China state media excoriates U.S. 'wackadoodles' over journalist visas row

SHANGHAI, Aug 5 (Reuters) - An editorial in a Chinese state newspaper on Wednesday sharply criticised Washington for what it termed an attempt to provoke an "all-out confrontation with China" over Chinese journalists' visas.

"No longer content with their maximum pressure ploys to coerce China into accepting an unfair trade deal, these neo-crusaders are seeking to provoke an all-out confrontation whereby they can finally hold 'communist China' by the throat," the editorial in the official English-language China Daily said.

The commentary follows China's vow on Tuesday to retaliate if the United States persisted with "hostile action" against Chinese journalists, who may be forced to leave in coming days if their U.S. visas are not extended.

The editor of the Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party's People's Daily newspaper, said on Tuesday that retaliation could include targeting U.S. journalists based in Hong Kong.

The China Daily editorial took aim at what it said was a "certain political faction" that had "hijacked the executive functions of government" to promote elite interests.

"Lost in the fog of flawed recollections of the country's past glory and guided by the decomposing guidebook of Reaganite strategy this cabal of wackadoodles has forsaken the most basic sense of propriety in interactions between countries and breached the bottom lines of international relations," the editorial in the official English-language China Daily said, referring to U.S. officials.

Relations between Beijing and Washington have deteriorated sharply in recent months, prompting several tit-for-tat actions involving journalists.

The United States in March slashed the number of Chinese nationals allowed to work at the U.S. offices of major Chinese state-owned media to 100 from 160.

China expelled U.S. journalists working for three U.S. newspapers this year and has threatened to match any more U.S. actions against Chinese journalists.

(Reporting by Andrew Galbraith)

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