U.S. imposes sanctions on China for buying Russian missiles, fighter jets

After signing of the order, the U.S. imposed sanctions on China, an Equipment Development Department under China's Ministry of Defence and its director Li Shangfu for its recent purchase of Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 surface-to-air missile, a senior administration official told reporters during a conference call.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing had lodged stern complaints with Washington over the action, which triggers a ban on entering the US, forbids conducting transactions with the USA financial system and forces the blocking of all property and interests in property within US jurisdiction.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in a statement it seemed to Moscow that imposing sanctions on Russia had become a national USA pastime, noting that the latest wave of restrictions was the 60th sanctions package since 2011.

The EDD and Mr Li have been added to a Blocked Persons List, meaning any assets they hold in the U.S. are frozen and Americans are "generally prohibited" from doing business with them.

Officials said it was the first time a third country has been punished under the CAATSA sanctions legislation for dealing with Russian Federation, and signalled the Trump administration's will to risk relations with other countries in its campaign against Moscow.

"Sanctions are used as a weapon of unfair competition - all of this we perfectly remember from the situation with the Nord Stream 2", Senator Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Russian Upper House Committee for International Relations, said.

The sanctions imposed on EDD and its director Li Shangfu entail the denial of export licenses and a prohibition on transactions with the US financial system, among others.

Thursday was the first time Washington has sanctioned anything or anyone for dealing with those blacklisted under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, known as CAATSA.

Given that the delivery of the S-400 systems is not expected for many years, the Trump administration may choose to ignore the conclusion of a sales agreement between the two countries next month and postpone any political sensitive decision that may detrimentally impact India-U.S. relations for the time being.

A State Department official told CBS News' Kylie Atwood on Thursday that the "ultimate target" of the new sanctions is Russian Federation, not China.

What US law governs the sanctions on China?

The US stressed that Moscow is in fact is the "ultimate target" of the restrictions.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the sanctions were "not meant to take down the economy of third-party countries" such as China.

"The possession of this of this military equipment is very important for China", he added. "It appears that it has become a sort of national pastime there", Ryabkov said. He also said Moscow needed Chinese money and Beijing wanted advanced military technology.

"The imposition of USA sanctions will have zero impact on Russian arms sales to China", said Ian Storey, of Singapore's ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.

Members of Congress, including many of Trump's fellow Republicans, who passed the sanctions bill almost unanimously, have repeatedly called on the administration to take a harder line against Moscow. Turkey has been warned by the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation that there could be consequences for its planned deployment of Russia's S-400 missile defence system. It can target stealth warplanes, such as the Pentagon's latest F-35 fighter jet.

  • Joey Payne