China, Russia warn U.S. to withdraw sanctions on military

Reuters

Reuters

That was the unnervingly vague ultimatum that China leveled at the Trump administration Friday, after Beijing was punished for buying Russian arms.

On Thursday, the US State Department said Chinese purchases of SU-35 aircraft and S-400 surface-to-air missiles breached a US sanctions law targeting Russian Federation over its alleged meddling in the 2016 US election and actions in Ukraine.

Sergei Ryabkov, deputy foreign minister, warned that the USA was "playing with fire".

After signing of the order, the U.S. imposed sanctions on China, an Equipment Development Department under China's Ministry of Defence and its director Li Shangfu for its recent purchase of Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 surface-to-air missile, a senior administration official told reporters during a conference call.

Beijing's angry response came hours later.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday at a daily news briefing in Beijing that they strongly urged the United States to withdraw the sanctions.

We strongly urge the USA side to immediately correct the mistake and rescind the so-called sanctions, otherwise the USA side will necessarily bear responsibility for the consequences.

"We have been using the possibility of Caatsa sanctions to deter arms transfers for many months", a senior administration official said.

"CAATSA sanctions in this context are not meant to undermine the defence capabilities of any particular country", the official said.

Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 American presidential election and military involvement in Syria's ongoing civil war increased tensions.

The penalties were applied under a law that requires the USA to sanction anyone undertaking significant transactions with certain people affiliated with Russian intelligence and military services, including arms manufacturers.

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The Russians named for CAATSA blacklisting have all been named previously under other United States sanctions regimes.

"This is a significant step", the administration official said.

He had also said that the USA was working to impose CAATSA Section 231 in a way that is appropriate and lawful and to exercise that waiver authority only where it makes sense.

A federal special counsel led by former FBI head Robert Mueller is leading a criminal investigation of Russian interference in the US election, and any possible co-operation with Trump's presidential campaign.

All this is playing against a backdrop of changing relations between China and Russian Federation.

United in their resentment of America's global influence, China and Russian Federation have sought in recent years to tighten up their ties and this month conducted week-long joint military drills, Moscow's largest ever war games.

Washington has expressed concern that Turkey's planned deployment of the S-400s could pose a risk to the security of some US -made weapons and other technology used by Turkey, including the F-35 fighter jet.

What US law governs the sanctions on China?

Turkey is a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member and traditionally an ally of the West.

Arms exports are an important source of revenue for the country and a year ago Russian Federation sold more than $14 billion worth of arms overseas.

The List of Specified Persons is a list of people or entities that the State Department has determined are either part of "or operating for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation".

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