U.S. sanctions China for buying Russian fighter jets, missiles
(Adds regional analysts comments, context)
By Lesley Wroughton and Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, Sept 20 (Reuters) - The Trump administration
imposed sanctions on the Chinese military on Thursday for buying
fighter jets and missile systems from Russia, in breach of a
sweeping U.S. sanctions law punishing Moscow for meddling in the
2016 U.S. election.
The U.S. State Department said it would immediately impose
sanctions on China's Equipment Development Department (EDD), the
branch of the Chinese military responsible for weapons and
equipment, and its director, Li Shangfu, for engaging in
"significant transactions" with Rosoboronexport, Russia's main
The sanctions are related to China's purchase of 10 SU-35
combat aircraft in 2017 and S-400 surface-to-air missile
system-related equipment in 2018, the State Department said.
They block the Chinese agency, and Li, from applying for
export licenses and participating in the U.S. financial system.
It also adds them to the Treasury Department's list of
specially designated individuals with whom Americans are barred
from doing business.
The administration also blacklisted an additional 33 people
and entities associated with the Russian military and
intelligence, adding them to a list under the 2017 law, known as
the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or
CAATSA also seeks to punish Russia for its aggression in
Ukraine and involvement in Syria's civil war.
Doing significant business with anyone on that list can
trigger sanctions like those imposed on China.
Some of those added to the list, which now contains 72
names, were indicted in connection with Russian interference in
the 2016 U.S. election, the official said.
Earlier on Thursday, President Donald Trump issued an
executive order intended to facilitate implementation of the
A federal special counsel is leading a criminal
investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election, and
any possible cooperation with Trump's presidential campaign.
Trump has insisted there was no collusion with Russia.
Moscow denies any effort to meddle in U.S. politics.
AIMED AT MOSCOW - OR BEIJING?
One U.S. administration official, who briefed reporters on
condition of anonymity, said the sanctions imposed on the
Chinese agency were aimed at Moscow, not Beijing or its
military, despite an escalating trade war between the United
States and China.
"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 said.
In Moscow, Russian member of parliament Franz Klintsevich
said the sanctions would not affect the S-400 and SU-35
"I am sure that these contracts will be executed in line
with the schedule," Klintsevich was quoted as saying by Russia's
Interfax news agency. "The possession of this military equipment
is very important for China."
Security analysts in Asia said the move appeared to be
largely symbolic and would serve only to push Moscow and Beijing
"The imposition of U.S. sanctions will have zero impact on
Russian arms sales to China," said Ian Storey, of Singapore's
ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.
"Both countries are opposed to what they see as U.S.
bullying and these kind of actions will just push Beijing and
Moscow even closer together," he said, adding that Moscow needed
Chinese money and Beijing wanted advanced military technology.
Collin Koh, a security analyst at Singapore's S Rajaratnam
School of International Studies, said the sanctions would do
little to counter the evolving research and development
relationship between China and Russia.
China relied less on large big-ticket purchases from Russia
as in previous years, but Chinese defence industries were
seeking expertise from Russia and former-Soviet states to plug
knowledge gaps, he said.
The measures come as the Trump administration pursues a
variety of strategies to clamp down on China and faces growing
pressure to respond strongly to U.S. intelligence agency reports
that Russia is continuing to meddle in U.S. politics.
Members of Congress, including many of Trump's fellow
Republicans, who passed the sanctions bill nearly unanimously,
have repeatedly called on the administration to take a harder
line against Moscow.
Administration officials said they hoped the action against
EDD would send a message to others considering buying the S-400.
U.S. officials have been discussing the issue particularly
with NATO ally Turkey, which wants to buy the Russian-made S-400
surface-to-air missile batteries.
Washington has expressed concern that Turkey's planned
deployment of the S-400s could pose a risk to the security of
some U.S.-made weapons and other technology used by Turkey,
including the F-35 fighter jet.
U.S. officials have warned that Turkey's purchase of the
system could contravene CAATSA.
"We hope that at least this step will send a signal of our
seriousness and perhaps encourage others to think twice about
their own engagement with the Russian defense and intelligence
sectors," another U.S. official said.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Patricia Zengerle,
additional reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow and Greg Torode
in Hong Kong; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Darren Schuettler)
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