Senior U.S. officials are considering possible retaliation over China’s defiance of U.S. sanctions on Iran, said three U.S. officials.
Last month, China imported over a million barrels of crude oil from the Islamic Republic, prompting the U.S. to look into whether and how to hit back. The State Department had considered issuing a waiver on Chinese companies’ imports of Iranian oil as payment in kind for their investment in an Iranian oil field, but the idea was quickly forgone.
Now, some senior officials on the National Security Council are advocating for a new set of sanctions on Chinese entities, which could put a strain on trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing and on the relationship between the two sides.
The Trump administration has been putting pressure on the Iranian economy, pushing to reduce the country’s oil exports – its main source of revenue – to zero as part of its policy of “maximum pressure” on Tehran. The efforts have yielded some success, Politico writes, as the U.S. has managed to persuade India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey – several of Iran’s largest consumers – to limit oil imports from the country.
However, China has proved to be tougher on the matter, with the country continuing to purchase large amounts of Iranian oil. Last month, a tanker carrying up to a million barrels of Iranian oil docked near the Chinese port city of Qingdao, angering GOP lawmakers, who demanded that pressure is put on Beijing to halt the practice.
But China seems reluctant to yield to U.S. pressure, which could undermine the Trump administration’s claim that its “maximum pressure” efforts on Iran are working.
The developments come amid announcements by Iran that it would increase uranium enrichment beyond the limits of the 2015 nuclear deal, which the U.S. withdrew from last year. U.S. officials threatened Wednesday that if Iran does not forgo its practice, it would face new sanctions.
Later that day, President Donald Trump said in a tweet that “[s]anctions will soon be increased, substantially.”
Over the weekend, National Security Advisor John Bolton said the country will “continue to increase the pressure on the Iranian regime until it abandons its nuclear weapons programs, and ends its violent activities across the Middle East, including conducting and supporting terrorism around the world.”