The purchase of major military equipment like the multi-billion-dollar S-400 Triumf missile system from Russian Federation would be considered as a "significant transaction" and has a potential for imposing tough U.S. sanctions, the Trump administration said today, as India considers buying the air defence systems.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement that China's Equipment Development Department and director Li Shangfu made a "significant transaction" involving the purchase of Su-35 combat aircraft in 2017 and S-400 surface-to-air missile system-related equipment in 2018.
All of them - defence related firms, officers of the GRU military intelligence agency, and people associated with the Saint Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency disinformation group - have been on previous United States sanctions lists.
They also restrict EDD's access to global financial markets by blocking foreign exchange transactions under U.S. jurisdiction or any transactions in the United States financial system.
Sergei Ryabkov, deputy foreign minister, warned that the US was "playing with fire".More news: Ferry in Tanzania's lake Victoria capsizes - government agency
"China expresses strong indignation at these unreasonable actions by the USA side and has already lodged stern representations", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing on September 20.
China's EDD and its director Li Shangfu became targets after taking delivery over the past year of the jets and missiles from Rosoboronexport, Russia's main arms exporter already on the U.S. blacklist for its support of Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria. "They are instead aimed at imposing costs upon Russian Federation in response to its malign activities".
"Each new round of sanctions proves our foe's complete lack of success in pressuring Russian Federation with previous such attempts", said Ryabkov, who added that Washington would never succeed in dictating its conditions to Moscow.
Being added to the blacklist does not immediately trigger sanctions, but anyone dealing with a blacklisted person or entity could be liable to punitive measures under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (Caatsa) passed by Congress in 2017.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov issued a statement saying the USA appeared to consider slapping sanctions on Russia a new national pastime, and dismissing their efficacy. "We will work with Russia to implement the consensus reached by two leaders and move forward our strategic coordination", he said referring to the close ties between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. However, under strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it has more recently grown closer to Russian Federation - including ordering the very same S-400s that landed China in hot water this week.More news: Here's what you'll pay in South Africa for Apple's new iPhone models
A senior U.S. administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, insisted the ultimate target was Russian Federation.
When asked about the sanctions' possible impact on US-China military relations, Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan told the South China Morning Post that "the Department of Defense won't speculate on potential impacts these sanctions could have on mil-mil relations". He also said Moscow needed Chinese money and Beijing wanted advanced military technology.
Administration officials said they hoped the action against EDD would send a message to others considering buying the S-400. They did not say whether North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which is also expected to purchase S-400 missile systems from Russian Federation - would also face sanctions.
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.More news: President Trump visited Conway to see damage caused by Florence