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US 'concerned' about arson attack at Chinese consulate

The State Department said Thursday the United States was deeply concerned by an arson attack on the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, which took place Wednesday and heavily damaged the structure. 

"The United States is deeply concerned by reports that the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco was damaged after being targeted by an arsonist on Wednesday, January 1," said Marie Harf, State Department deputy spokeswoman. "We take this incident very seriously, and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security is working with the FBI and local authorities to investigate and apprehend the perpetrators."

The consulate was damaged when an unidentified person set fire to the main gate on New Year's Day.

According to a statement released on the consulate's website, the suspect was in a van parked in front of the building on Wednesday night, and carried two containers of gasoline to the main gate before setting it on fire.

"We strongly condemn this vicious, destructive act of arson towards the American consulate of China, which severely damaged the facilities and threatened the safety of consulate personnel and others," the statement read. 

According to a fire dispatcher, the fire was reported at 9:33 p.m. (12:33 a.m. ET) and was brought under control by firefighters at 9:42 p.m.

No one was hurt in the fire that charred the building's doorway, damaged the lobby and burned toward the roof, NBC Bay Area reported

"We urge the U.S. side to take all necessary measures to provide adequate protection for Chinese consular personnel and properties, and bring the culprit(s) to justice as soon as possible," the consulate statement added. 

The Chinese consulate in San Francisco was similarly attacked in 2008, when a group of people allegedly poured a flammable liquid onto the building's back gate and set it ablaze, NBC Bay Area reported.

The safety of diplomatic personnel and missions is a sensitive issue in China after the U.S. military accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during air strikes against Serbia in 1999. 

Reuters contributed to this report.