US spy agency apologizes for tweet about ‘classy’ Chinese welcome

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives at Hangzhou Xiaoshan international airport before the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China September 3, 2016. © Damir Sagolj
The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has apologized for a tweeted joke about the welcome for President Obama’s team upon their arrival at the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China.

The now deleted tweet had a link to an article by the New York Times, describing a row between Chinese security personnel and US journalists and officials. The tweet itself read: “Classy as always China.” 

Though taken offline by the DIA, the tweet has circulated online as a screenshot.

The agency later issued apologies by posting another message instead, saying that its tweet “regarding a news article was mistakenly posted” from its account and did not “represent the views of DIA.”

“We apologize,” the agency added at the end of its post.

Obama’s arrival in Asia has been marred by several rows, the first starting on the Hangzhou airport tarmac.

Despite standard protocol, there was no staircase waiting for the president to exit the plane at the main door. The US leader had to opt for narrower stairs and the tail-gate as an alternative exit. A red carpet - standard in such cases - was also nowhere to be seen, so Obama had to walk the carpet-less concrete surface.

The standoff had started before that, however, as a Chinese official attempted to prevent US National Security Adviser Susan Rice from walking to the motorcade as she crossed a media rope line. It wasn’t clear if the official knew that Rice was a top member of the US delegation and not a journalist.

The same Chinese official then proceeded to blast the press corp for standing too close to the president under the wing of the plane. In response, White House officials told him that it was a US plane and the US president, to which the Chinese official responded angrily, “This is our country! This is our airport!”

As tempers frayed, Secret Service personnel stepped in, although they usually deal with the US president’s security only.

The whole scene took place without President Obama present, as he was still inside the plane at the time.

The altercations didn’t end there, though. The Washington Post reported that later on several White House protocol officers and other staff members came to a diplomatic compound ahead of Obama’s meetings, but were prevented from entering.

“The president is arriving here in an hour,” one of the staff said, but Chinese officials still wouldn’t let anyone in – reportedly almost resulting in a fistfight.

“Calm down, please. Calm down,” another White House official was reported as saying.

The row continued inside, with Chinese and US officials arguing if there was enough room for the 12 US journalists traveling with Obama. US officials insisted that there was, while the Chinese said there wasn‘t.

Following the incidents, Obama said he would not “overcrank the significance" of it. The president noted however that the American press had the right to report on his arrival and that the US does not leave its “values” and “ideals” behind when making such trips.

President Obama arrived in Hangzhou on Saturday for the G20 summit that kicked off on Sunday.