China halts military talks with US in protest over sanctions

Chinese entities hit for procuring Russian military hardware; experts call US action 'malicious'

File photo of Russian S-400 Triumph medium-range and long-range surface-to-air missile systems riding through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, on May 9, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING • The Chinese military has halted major military dialogue for the near future with the United States in a protest over its recent sanctions on Chinese military entities for procuring Russian military hardware, China's Ministry of National Defence has said.

The US State Department last Thursday imposed sanctions on China's Equipment Development Department (EDD), the branch of the military responsible for weapons procurement, for engaging in "significant transactions" with Rosoboronexport, a major Russian arms exporter.

The sanctions target the EDD and its director Li Shangfu, who are involved in China's purchase of Russian SU-35 combat aircraft and the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, the US department said.

The sanctions include denying US travel visas to EDD staff and banning them from using the US financial system or making foreign exchange transactions within US jurisdictions. They also block the Chinese entity's property and interests that are within US control.

In response, China summoned US envoys on Saturday, including US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad and the US acting defence attache David Menser, to strongly protest against the sanctions.

The Chinese defence ministry said in an online statement on Saturday that China will immediately recall its navy commander, Vice-Admiral Shen Jinlong, who is in the US attending the International Seapower Symposium.

In addition, China will postpone the second meeting of a communication mechanism for the joint staff departments of China and the US, scheduled for today to Thursday in Beijing, the ministry added.

Military cooperation between China and Russia is a normal activity between sovereign states that goes in line with international law, Mr Huang Xueping, deputy head of the Central Military Commission's Office for International Military Cooperation, said in a statement.

Mr Huang called the US sanctions "unreasonable", a "blatant violation of basic norms of international relations" and "a stark show of hegemony" that will severely damage Sino-US military relations as well as bilateral ties.

Experts also called the sanctions a "malicious move" that has not only escalated tensions and damaged the positive momentum of Sino-US military relations, but also left a dangerous impression that the US will confront China and Russia both on trade and military fronts.

Rear-Admiral Yang Yi, a professor at the PLA National Defence University, said the US sanctions will have little effect on China's actual military procurement process.

"But it is very damaging to Sino-US military relations because the sanctions are blatant and malicious attempts by the US to sabotage the modernisation process" of the People's Liberation Army, he said.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2018, with the headline China halts military talks with US in protest over sanctions. Subscribe