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US sanctions Chinese military agency for buying Russian equipment

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A Russian Sukhoi jet fighter flying in the sky of the Syrian village of Kafr Ain in the southern countryside of Idlib province on September 7, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The United States has slapped sanctions on a Chinese military agency for buying defense equipment from Russia.

US State Department officials said on Thursday it would immediately impose sanctions against China's Equipment Development Department for engaging in "significant transactions" with Russia’s Rosoboronexport. 

Rosoboronexport is Russia's main arms exporter.

Li Shangfu, the director of Equipment Development Department, which is responsible for supervising defense technology, was included in the sanctions. 

China’s purchase from Russia is a breach of a sweeping US sanctions bill enacted in 2017 titled Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, according to an anonymous source.

Media reported a further 33 people and entities in transaction with Russian military and intelligence agencies were included in the sanctions blacklist.

The US sanctions target Russia only, said a State Department official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.

“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 told reporters on a conference call. “They are instead aimed at imposing costs upon Russia in response to its malign activities.”

The official noted that the sanctions were related to China’s purchase of 10 Russian Sukhoi-35 combat aircraft in 2017, and S-400 surface-to-air missile system-related equipment in 2018.

The US Congress, which approved CAATSA with almost unanimity, has repeatedly called on the President Donald Trump’s administration to take a tougher stance against Russia.

The imposed sanctions come as the administration is practicing a variety of methods to exert pressure on both China and Russia for allegedly meddling in US affairs.

Show mutual respect 

Trump this week accused China of trying to influence US mid-term elections by attacking American farmers and industrial workers.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang rejected Trump’s accusations on Wednesday.

"Anyone who has some knowledge of China's diplomacy will know that we will not interfere in other countries' domestic affairs," Geng said, adding, "We don't want others to interfere in our domestic politics, and we will not interfere in the domestic politics of others."

Geng downplayed any anti-China actions by the US, saying Beijing had prepared itself for the punitive measures taken by the Trump administration.  

"These little actions by the US have become the routine,” he said.

Instead, the Chinese official urged the Americans to show "sincerity" in their foreign policy and interactions with other nations. 

Treat China with “mutual respect," Geng insisted.

It is high time Americans show some "good faith," he said. 

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