The Cyberspace Administration of China demanded Apple remove the WhatsApp and Threads apps from its online store in China due to national security concerns, Reuters reported.

Apple confirmed in an email to the news outlet it complied with the request, as it is “obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate”.

It was not clear why the agency ordered the apps to be removed, with Reuters noting other apps developed by western companies, including Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and YouTube, continue to be available in the country.

A simmering trade war between the US and China has led to retaliatory measures on both sides.

The latest move could be triggered by the US House of Representatives passing a bill in March which would force ByteDance to sell TikTok’s US assets to a non-Chinese owner. The legislation still needs approval by the US Senate, and any sale would need the green light from regulators in China, which analysts say is unlikely.

Following the US widening controls on the export of advanced chips and chipmaking gear to the mainland, the Chinese government last week ordered domestic operators to remove foreign chips from their networks by 2027.