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Amid trade war, the US sanctions China for buying Russian weapons



Russian Su-35
SU-35 military jet at the MAKS-2009 international air show in
Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, August 21, 2009.

Sergei Karpukhin/REUTERS

  • The US has hit China with sanctions for Beijing’s
    dealings with Russian weapons makers.
  • The move is related to Beijing’s purchase of advanced
    aircraft and anti-aircraft systems.
  • It’s the first time the US has imposed sanctions under
    a law meant to punish Russia for its actions abroad, including
    interference in the US 2016 election.

The Trump administration has hit China with tariffs on $250 billion in consumer
and industrial goods so far this year, and now sanctions tied to
Beijing’s arms deals with Russia are being added to the mix.

On Thursday, the State Department said it would impose sanctions
on China’s Equipment Development Department and its director, Li
Shangfu, for “significant transactions” with
Russia’s main weapons exporter, Rosoboronexport.

The Equipment Development Department oversees procurement of
China’s defense technology.

The Chinese entities will be added a sanctions list established
under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,
or CAATSA, which was passed in August 2017 and went into effect
in January.

trump putin helsinki
Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a news
conference after meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16,


The law is meant to punish Russia for actions that include
meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. Countries trading
with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors — including US
allies — can face secondary sanctions, though a waiver process was included
in the legislation. (The US added 33 other people and entities to
the list on Thursday.)

A State Department official said the sanctions were related
to China’s purchase of 10 Russian-made Su-35 combat aircraft in
2017 and of Russia’s advanced S-400 air-defense system, which
China bought in 2014 and received
in 2018

“Both transactions resulted from pre-August 2, 2017, deals
negotiated between EDD and Rosoboronexport,” the State Department

This is the first time the US has
sanctioned a buyer of Russian weapons under the law. While the
sanctions were imposed on China, the State Department official
said the move was directed at Moscow.

“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,” the official
said. “They are instead aimed
at imposing costs upon Russia in response to its malign

Russian military S 400
S-400 Triumph surface-to-air missile systems at the Victory Day
parade at Red Square in Moscow, May 9, 2015.


“Since China has now gone ahead and, in fact, done what is
clearly a significant transaction … we feel it necessary and
indeed we are required by the law [to] take this step today,” a
senior administration official said.

India, a major US partner, similarly plans to buy the S-400, and it
and other US partner countries are also major buyers of Russian

While the legislation was under discussion, US defense
officials requested exceptions be made
for those countries that worked with the US but still needed to
buy Russian arms.

At the end of August, the Pentagon’s top Asia official
said the “impression that we
are going to completely … insulate India from any fallout”
related to the sanctions was “a bit misleading.”

But as of early September, when Defense Secretary Jim
Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met their Indian
counterparts in New Delhi, Pompeo said there had been no decision on action over
India’s purchase of the S-400.

trump xi
Trump with Chinese
President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

Images / Thomas Peter-Pool

The sanctions will ban the Chinese company from
export licenses and from foreign-exchange transactions that take
place under US jurisdiction and block the firm from the US
financial system and its property and interests in the US.

Li, the director, will be barred from the US
financial system and financial transactions, have any property
and interests blocked, and be barred from having a US visa.

“Today’s actions further demonstrate the Department of State’s
continuing commitment to fully implement CAATSA section 231,
which has already deterred billions of dollars-worth of potential
arms exports from Russia,” the agency said.

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