Tensions between China and the United States escalated Saturday as China’s Foreign Ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad to issue a harsh protest against U.S. sanctions set for the purchase of Russian fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles.
The move came hours after China canceled trade talks with the U.S. following Washington’s imposition of new tariffs on Chinese goods.
The statement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website called the imposition of sanctions “a serious violation of the basic principles of international law” and a “hegemonic act.” The ministry also wrote, “Sino-Russian military cooperation is the normal cooperation of the two sovereign states, and the U.S. has no right to interfere.” The U.S. actions, it said, “have seriously damaged the relations” with China.
China had earlier called on the U.S. to withdraw the sanctions, and speaking to reporters Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing had lodged an official protest with the United States.
China’s purchase of the weapons from Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport violated a 2017 U.S. law intended to punish the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin for interfering in U.S. elections and other activities. The U.S. action set in motion a visa ban on China’s Equipment Development Department and director Li Shangfu, forbids transactions with the U.S. financial system, and blocks all property and interests in property involving the country within U.S. jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported that China had planned to send Vice Premier Liu He to Washington next week for trade talks, but canceled his trip, along with that of a midlevel delegation that was to precede him.
Earlier Friday, a senior White House official had said the U.S. was optimistic about finding a way forward in trade talks with China.
The official told reporters at the White House that China “must come to the table in a meaningful way” for there to be progress on the trade dispute.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that while there was no confirmed meeting between the United States and China, the two countries “remain in touch.”
“The president’s team is all on the same page as to what’s required from China,” according to the official.
The Trump administration has argued that tariffs on Chinese goods would force China to trade on more favorable terms with the United States.
It has demanded that China better protect American intellectual property, including ending the practice of cybertheft. The Trump administration has also called on China to allow U.S. companies greater access to Chinese markets and to cut its U.S. trade surplus.
Earlier this week, the United States ordered duties on another $200 billion of Chinese goods to go into effect on Sept. 24. China responded by adding $60 billion of U.S. products to its import tariff list.
The United States already has imposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, and China has retaliated on an equal amount of U.S. goods.