BEIJING – The United States should remove illegal sanctions imposed on energy company Zhuhai Zhenrong, China said on Tuesday, after Washington embargoed the state-run firm and its head for allegedly violating restrictions on the purchase of crude oil from Iran.
“We oppose that the US randomly oppresses and sanctions Chinese companies and individuals. We urge the US to correct this wrongdoing and stop its illegal sanctions on Chinese companies and individuals,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a daily press briefing.
In a statement on Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompei said his country “is taking further action as part of our maximum economic pressure campaign against the Iranian regime by imposing sanctions on the Chinese firm Zhuhai Zhenrong Company Limited and its chief executive for knowingly purchasing or acquiring oil from Iran, contrary to US sanctions.”
Beijing “strongly opposes and condemns” the US’ unilateral action that “is in violation of international law and international relations, and will gain no support,” the Chinese spokesperson said.
“The international cooperation with Iran, including China’s cooperation, under the international law is normal. It is reasonable, legal and must be respected and protected. The US neglects the legitimate rights of all countries and randomly uses sanctions,” Hua said.
Regarding the sanctions against Zhuhai Zhenrong, Hua said that China will take “necessary measures” to safeguard its “legitimate rights and interests.”
Monday’s announcement represents an escalation of tensions between Washington and Tehran following several attacks on merchant ships and the shooting down of drones in the Persian Gulf in recent months as well as the capture by Iran of a British oil-tanker on Friday.
US President Donald Trump said on Monday that he was seeing it increasingly difficult to reach an agreement with Iran that would make it possible to lower the escalation of tension between the two countries because Tehran “has disrespected” Washington.
In May 2018, the US announced that it was withdrawing from a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran because Iranian authorities were violating the spirit of the treaty with the purpose of secretly developing nuclear weapons.
In November 2018, it reinstated sanctions on the export of Iranian crude oil, although it granted China, Iran’s main oil buyer, a six-month exemption in order to find alternative suppliers.
“They disrespected the United States. They should not have done that. (…) Frankly, it is getting harder for me to want to make a deal with Iran (...) It could go either way very easily. And I am okay either way it goes,” Trump said.
The president made these statements shortly after accusing Iran on Twitter of lying about having arrested 17 Iranian citizens working for the Central Intelligence Agency.