China Summons US Ambassador Over Sanctions Scandal

China's foreign ministry summoned the US ambassador on Saturday to lodge an official protest over the sanctions imposed by the United States against a Chinese military organization for buying Russian fighter jets and missiles, state media reported. The announcement came just hours after a Chinese defense ministry spokesman called on the US to "immediately revoke the sanctions or "bear the consequences."

Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang, summoned US Ambassador Terry Branstad and "lodged solemn representations over US sanctions against (the) Chinese military", the Foreign Ministry said in a brief online statement, and added the following:

Zheng Zeguang pointed out that the US action to impose sanctions on Chinese military agency and official on the ground of relevant military cooperation between China and Russia severely violates basic norms governing the international relations. Such mean behavior is a blatant hegemonic act. The China-Russia military cooperation is normal cooperation between two sovereign states, and the US side has no right to interfere. The US act has severely harmed the state-to-state and mil-to-mil relations and affected the cooperation in international and regional affairs between China and the US. The Chinese side will take every necessary measure to firmly safeguard its national interests. We strongly urge the US side to correct its mistake immediately and withdraw so-called sanctions. Otherwise, the US side will have to bear all the consequences.

China's central military commission also summoned an acting military attache at the U.S. embassy on Saturday night over the sanctions. The Chinese side also decided to immediately recall commander Shen Jinlong, who is in the United States for an international maritime force meeting, CCTV reported.

US Ambassador Terry Branstad

Quoted by the Chinese state broadcaster, Zeguang also said that "China will take all necessary measures to firmly defend its national interests", and added that the Chinese military reserves the right to take further countermeasures.

The last time China summoned the U.S. ambassador was in July 2016 over the deployment of the Thaad anti-missile system in South Korea according to Bloomberg. In 2015, the U.S. ambassador was summoned over U.S. warships entering Spratly islands.

As reported earlier, on Thursday, Washington placed financial sanctions on the Equipment Development Department of the Chinese Defence Ministry, and its top administrator, for its recent purchase of Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems in the past two years. The Chinese military expressed "strong indignation and resolute opposition" to the sanctions, the defence ministry said Saturday, echoing a foreign ministry statement the previous day.

Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said the US move was a "a flagrant breach of basic rules of international relations" and "a stark show of hegemonism" that severely damages relations between the two countries and their militaries, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

This marks the first time a third country has been punished under the CAATSA sanctions legislation for dealing with Russia, and signaled the Trump administration's willingness to risk relations with other countries in its campaign against Moscow. US officials said that the US could consider similar action against other countries taking delivery of Russian fighter jets and missiles, which could include such nations as Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

However, a senior US administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, insisted the ultimate target was Russia and not "the defense capabilities" of third countries.

CAATSA, or the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, was passed in 2017 as a tool that gives Washington more ways to target Russia, Iran and North Korea with economic and political sanctions.

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It wasn't just China: Russia also lashed out at the US sanctions, accusing Washington of playing unfairly and using new measures to squeeze Moscow out of the global arms market. According to AFP, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that "Washington's continued sanctions hysterics" dealt a new blow to US-Russia ties but could not immediately say if Moscow would retaliate, or how.

United in their resentment of America's global influence and "hegemony", China and Russia have been tightening up their ties and this month conducted week-long joint military drills in Moscow's largest ever war games.