BEIJING (Dispatches) -- China on Monday called for the U.S. to "immediately halt” sanctions on Chinese companies for maintaining business ties with Iran amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday imposed new sanctions on Iran. The latest round of sanctions is set to hit much of Iran’s economy as well as Chinese companies that have conducted business with Iran.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Monday said Beijing opposed what it saw as unilateral sanctions and called for Washington to stop punishing Chinese companies through those sanctions.
"We think that sanctions or threats of sanctions will not solve the issues at hand,” Geng said during a regular press briefing in Beijing.
Geng’s remarks came after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Fox News on Sunday that "China is subject to sanctions just like everybody else”.
"We actually sanctioned some of their shipping companies that were involved in the oil, and we will continue to pursue sanctions activities against China and anybody else around the world that continues to do business with them,” Mnuchin said during the interview.
But Geng said China’s trade with Iran was legitimate and should be "respected”.
"The friendly cooperation between China and Iran has long been within the framework of international law. Such cooperation has been legitimate and law-abiding, it doesn’t harm the interests of third parties, and should be respected and protected,” Geng said.
"The Chinese side urges the U.S.
side to immediately halt the wrongful action of sanctioning Chinese companies. We will resolutely protect the legitimate interests of the Chinese companies.”
China has long been Iran’s largest trading partner and the Islamic Republic is one of its major suppliers of oil. But the relationship has come under greater scrutiny since the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran as ties between the two countries rapidly deteriorated.