Beijing on Tuesday again lashed out at a U.S. decision to impose sanctions on countries that buy Iranian oil, calling it a violation of China’s interests that will intensify turmoil in the Middle East and international energy markets.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the U.S. is operating outside its jurisdiction in unilaterally imposing the sanctions. He said normal interactions between Iran and other countries are “reasonable and lawful” and deserving of respect and protection.
“The relevant actions of the U.S. will also intensify the turmoil in the Middle East and international energy market,” Geng said.
“We urge the U.S. to play a constructive role in a responsible manner, instead of the other way around. In addition, we have already made complaints with the U.S. on this matter,” he said.
Geng said China will work to safeguard its companies’ interests, reflecting its desire to secure foreign markets as it pursues its massive “Belt-and-Road” infrastructure initiative.
China is one of Iran’s biggest oil markets and was a strong backer of the agreement to lift sanctions in return for Iran curbing its nuclear weapons program that was scrapped by President Donald Trump.
The Trump administration said Monday that it will no longer exempt any countries from U.S. sanctions if they continue to buy Iranian oil, stepping up pressure on Iran in a move that primarily affects the five remaining major importers.
Along with India and U.S. treaty allies Japan, South Korea and Turkey, China was one of the countries primarily affected by the announcement.
Oil prices soared to their highest level since October on Tuesday.
The sanctions could potentially remove up to 1.2 million barrels of oil per day from international markets, according to industry experts. However, that number will likely be lower, depending on how countries respond and just how much oil Iran continues to export.
Oil Prices Spike Further After US Moves on Iran Buyers
Oil prices remained near six-month highs Tuesday in the wake of the Trump administration’s announcement that it would soon impose sanctions on all buyers of Iranian oil.
On Monday, the Trump administration said it would no longer exempt any countries from U.S. sanctions if they continue to buy Iranian oil. The administration had granted eight waivers when it re-imposed sanctions on Iran in November. These expire May 2.
The move will choke off more than $50 billion of annual Iranian income, which the U.S. says funds destabilizing activity in the Middle East and beyond. China, India, Japan and South Korea and Turkey are major importers of Iranian oil.
Industry experts said the sanctions could potentially remove up to 1.2 million barrels of oil per day from international markets. But that number will likely be lower, depending on how countries respond and just how much oil Iran continues to export
The decision has already been criticized by the European Union. European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic expressed “regret” Tuesday over the U.S. decision, saying that it “risks further undermining” the Iran nuclear deal.
In the markets, the move gave oil prices a further lift.
A barrel of benchmark New York oil was up 0.7% at $65.99, slightly below its earlier high since October of $66.10. Meanwhile, Brent, the international standard, was 0.3% higher at $74.25 a barrel, slightly down on its earlier highest level since November of $74.65.
“There isn’t much doubt about the trigger for the latest rally, with Trump’s decision not to extend waivers on imports of Iranian oil beyond May unsurprisingly providing further upward pressure,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.
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