As if there weren’t already enough reasons to be pessimistic about US-China relations, a new front of disagreement opened on Thursday when it was announced that China will be punished for violating Washington’s sweeping Russia sanctions regime.
A department of the People’s Liberation Army, along with its current director, has been slapped with sanctions in response to Chinese purchases of Russian weapons. Under the sanctions law, China’s Equipment Development Department, along with its chief Li Shangfu, will be prohibited from accessing the US financial system and any assets they hold in the US will be frozen.
In response, China is expressing “strong outrage,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday.
“These related actions are severe violations of the basic norms of international relations,” he stressed, adding that the sanctions severely damage bilateral diplomatic and military ties.
“We strongly urge the US to immediately correct this mistake and rescind the sanctions, or else the US will bear the consequences,” Geng warned.
In a briefing on the sanctions enforcement measures, the US State Department cited China’s recent purchases of Russian arms, including Sukhoi fighter jets and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems.
One senior administration official quoted in a transcript of the briefing noted that this was the first time the US has ever sanctioned entities under this specific law and that the goal was to punish Russia, not China.
“I want to emphasize that the ultimate target of these sanctions is Russia. CAATSA sanctions in this context are not intended to undermine the defense capabilities of any particular country. They are instead aimed at imposing costs upon Russia in response to its malign activities,” the official said.
The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which was passed in 2017 to target dealings with Russia, Iran and North Korea, has been met with widespread criticism in the international community.
Countries including India and Turkey have decried that it violates their ability to make prudent decisions about military procurement, while officials in the European Union have raised concerns about how the sanctions could affect gas pipeline projects with Russia. When he reluctantly signed the legislation into effect, US President Donald Trump also said the bill was “seriously flawed.”