China summons US envoys over sanctions linked to Russia deal

In this May 11, 2018, file photo released by Xinhua News Agency, two Su-35 fighter jets and a H-6K bomber from the People's Liberation Army air force fly in formation during patrol that included the Luzon Straits also known as Bashi Straits near Taiwan. China has summoned the American ambassador and the defense attache and recalled its navy commander from a U.S. trip to deliver a strong protest against economic sanctions Washington lodged over the purchase of Russian fighter jets and surface-to-air missile equipment. The Defense Ministry says the U.S. had no right to interfere in Chinese military cooperation with Russia. The U.S. says the purchase of the weapons violates a law punishing Moscow for interfering in U.S. elections. (Liu Rui/Xinhua via AP, File)

BEIJING — China summoned the American ambassador and the defense attache and recalled its navy commander from a U.S. trip to deliver a strong protest against economic sanctions Washington lodged over the purchase of Russian fighter jets and surface-to-air missile equipment.

The Defense Ministry said the U.S. had no right to interfere in Chinese military cooperation with Russia.

"We demand that the U.S. immediately correct the mistake and revoke the so-called sanctions, otherwise the U.S. must bear the consequences," the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The Foreign Ministry said that it had summoned Ambassador Terry Branstad.

The Central Military Commission, which commands the People's Liberation Army, the world's largest standing military, said that Huang Xueping, the commission's deputy head for international military cooperation, had also summoned the acting U.S. defense attache on Saturday evening, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Huang said China would immediately recall Shen Jinlong, a Chinese navy commander currently in the U.S. attending a symposium, and would postpone a meeting scheduled for Sept. 25-27 in Beijing about a communication mechanism.

"The Chinese military reserves the right to take further countermeasures," Huang was quoted as saying.

Washington says China's purchase of the weapons from Rosoboronexport, Russia's main arms exporter, violated a 2017 law intended to punish the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin for interfering in U.S. elections and other activities.

The action triggers a visa ban on China's Equipment Development Department and director Li Shangfu, forbids conducting transactions with the U.S. financial system and blocks all property and interests in property involving the country within U.S. jurisdiction.

The U.S. State Department said Li's office made a "significant transaction" involving the purchase of Su-35 combat aircraft in 2017 and S-400 surface-to-air missile system-related equipment this year.

The sanctions were enacted "to further impose costs on the Russian government in response to its malign activities," it said. The U.S. will continue to "urge all countries to curtail relationships with Russia's defense and intelligence sectors, both of which are linked to malign activities worldwide," it said.

The Kremlin dismissed the sanctions as an "unfair" move to undercut Russia as a major arms exporter.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday that Russia views the new set of sanctions as an attempt to undermine the competitiveness of Russian arms exports and vowed to reciprocate.

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