Washington: Apple has removed WhatsApp and Threads from its app store in China after the country's internet watchdog issued orders, citing national security concerns, CNN reported.

An Apple spokesperson said that the Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from China.

"We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree," an Apple spokesperson said while speaking to CNN.

"The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns. These apps remain available for download on all other storefronts where they appear," the spokesperson added.

These two apps, owned by Meta, were already blocked in China and not widely used. People in China could access these apps only by making use of virtual private networks (VPNs) that can encrypt internet traffic and disguise the user's online identity.

Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based investment advisory BDA China, said that the removal of the apps by Apple demonstrates a "further distancing between already separated tech universes" in China and beyond, according to the CNN report. He noted that the removal of these apps will cause inconvenience to consumers and businesses in China.

"It will cause inconvenience to consumers and businesses (in China) who deal with family, friends, or customers overseas. Even if they use VPNs to access their existing WhatsApp apps, these over time will become obsolete and require updating," he said.

Other popular Western social media applications, including Facebook, X, Instagram, and Messenger, were still available on Apple's China app store, CNN reported.

Apple's announcement comes at a time when there has been a decline in iPhone sales in China. The sales of Apple phones decreased by 10 percent in the first quarter of this year, according to market research firm IDC, CNN reported. The tech giant has lost momentum in China amid a rough economy, nationalism, and increased competition.

Meanwhile, Apple has been diversifying its supply chain and manufacturing base beyond China in recent years. Apple is planning to purchase more components from Vietnam, showcasing a trend among global tech firms to look beyond China for their supply chains, reducing costs, and opening up new markets.

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the decision in a meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh in Hanoi on April 16, Vietnam's government announced in a statement, CNN reported.

Since 2019, Apple (AAPL) has already spent almost USD 16 billion through its supply chain in Vietnam, the Vietnamese government quoted Cook as saying, the report said. Furthermore, the tech giant has created more than 2,00,000 jobs in Vietnam, the statement added.

Cook said Apple "stands ready ... to enhance cooperation and investment activities" in Vietnam, according to the statement. In recent years, fast-growing economies like India and Vietnam have emerged as alternative locations for manufacturers as ties between China and the West have been strained.

This report is auto-generated from a syndicated feed