The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on a Chinese military agency and its director for buying defense equipment from Russian Federation in breach of a sweeping USA sanctions bill enacted in 2017.
Officials said that they made a decision to act against the Chinese military procurement organisation, the Equipment Development Department, after it purchased Sukhoi Su-35 warplanes from Moscow in November 2017 and S-400 surface-to-air missiles in January this year.
It also adds them to the Treasury Department's list of specially designated individuals with whom Americans are barred from doing business.
The sanctions will block the Chinese agency and Li from applying for export licences and participating in the U.S. financial system.
Sanctions on Li will also prohibit him using the USA financial system and making foreign exchanges, and block any of his property or interests.
The United States is "playing with fire", Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said, while Beijing voiced "strong indignation" over the move.
Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang made the comments at a daily news briefing in Beijing.
Beijing has threatened that Washington will face "consequences" if it doesn't withdraw the recent batch of sanctions against China over military cooperation with Russian Federation.
Alexander Gabuev, head of the Russian Federation in the Asia-Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said the new US measures could bring Moscow and Beijing even closer.
The new sanctions unveiled by the state department on Thursday will sharpen tensions with Beijing amid a brewing trade war - and further sour relations with Moscow.
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This year's U.S. National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) grants the Trump administration authority to waive mandatory sanctions under CAATSA in certain circumstances pertaining to Russian legacy military systems that costs less than $15 million.
Twenty-eight of them have already been indicted by Robert Mueller, the U.S. Special Counsel who is investigating election meddling by Russian Federation.
"CAATSA sanctions in this context are not meant to undermine the defence capabilities of any particular country". "The possession of this military equipment is very important for China". "They are instead aimed at imposing costs on Russian Federation in response to its malign activities, and of course those malign activities are many", the official said.
"Both countries are opposed to what they see as US 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.
And in November 2015, China became the first overseas client to buy Russia's most advanced fighter jet when it signed a US$2.5 billion contract for 24 Su-35s.
On Thursday, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at toughening Washington's sanctions against Russian Federation.
He declined to answer a question whether the United States would be taking similar action against countries, like Turkey, that buy S-400 missile defence system.
The Russians named for CAATSA blacklisting have all been named previously under other U.S. sanctions regimes.
Members of Congress, including many of Trump's fellow Republicans, who passed the sanctions bill almost unanimously, have repeatedly called on the administration to take a harder line against Moscow. It can target stealth warplanes, such as the Pentagon's latest F-35 fighter jet.