China has criticized the United States for imposing sanctions on a Chinese company selling refined petroleum products to Iran, denouncing it as an unreasonable step beyond international sanctions on Tehran’s nuclear program.
Sanctions on China’s Zhuhai Zhenrong Co. were imposed by Washington on Thursday, barring it from doing business in the U.S. after Washington said it brokered delivery of more than $500 million worth of gasoline to Iran from July 2010 to January 2011.
But China’s foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said China’s cooperation with Iran was similar to that of other countries.
“We express strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to this,” Liu said in a statement carried by the official Xinhua news agency late Saturday.
“Like many other countries, China maintains normal cooperation with Iran in energy, economic and trade fields,” he said, adding that the U.S. had acted unilaterally to impose the sanctions.
“This is without reason, and against the content and spirit of resolutions by the United Nations Security Council on the Iran nuclear issue.”
The Obama administration said its sanctions against the Chinese company and two other firms are part of a broadening effort to target Iran’s energy sector and press Tehran to curb its nuclear ambitions, which Western governments say appear aimed at developing the means to make atomic weapons.
Iran says its nuclear activities are legitimate and entirely for peaceful ends.
The U.S. sanctions threat is a worry for China, the biggest buyer of Iranian oil, followed by India and Japan. Only Saudi Arabia and Angola sell more crude than Iran to China.
As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China can veto resolutions mandating sanctions. But Beijing has voted for them, while working to ensure its energy ties are not threatened.
China has, however, also long criticized the United States and EU for imposing separate, unilateral sanctions on Iran and said they should take no steps reaching beyond the U.N. resolutions.
The sanctions, also placed on companies from Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, bar the three firms from receiving U.S. export licenses, trade support from the U.S. Export Import Bank, and loans over $10 million from U.S. financial institutions