PLA halts US talks in protest over sanc­tions

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Front Page - By ZHANG ZHIHAO zhangzhi­hao@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

The Chi­nese mil­i­tary has halted ma­jor mil­i­tary di­a­logue for the near fu­ture with the United States in protest of its re­cent sanc­tions on Chi­nese mil­i­tary en­ti­ties for procur­ing Rus­sian mil­i­tary hard­ware, China’s Min­istry of Na­tional De­fense said on Satur­day night.

On Thurs­day, the US State Depart­ment im­posed sanc­tions on China’s Equip­ment Devel­op­ment Depart­ment, 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 Rus­sia’s SU-35 com­bat air­craft and the S-400 sur­face-to-air mis­sile sys­tem, the US depart­ment said.

Sanc­tion mea­sures 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 en­tity’s prop­erty and in­ter­ests within US con­trol, it added.

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

The MND said in an on­line state­ment that China will im­me­di­ately re­call Chi­nese navy com­man­der Vice Ad­mi­ral Shen Jin­long, who is in the US at­tend­ing the 23rd 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 Sept 25-27 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, Huang Xueping, deputy head of the Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion Of­fice for In­ter­na­tional Mil­i­tary Co­op­er­a­tion, said in the min­istry’s state­ment.

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

“China res­o­lutely op­poses the US move and will never ac­cept it,” he said. “China de­mands the US side im­me­di­ately cor­rect its mis­take and with­draw the sanc­tions, and the Chi­nese mil­i­tary re­serves the right to take fur­ther coun­ter­mea­sures,” Huang warned.

Ex­perts said the sanc­tions could pose un­cer­tainty on Chi­nese De­fense Min­is­ter Gen­eral Wei Fenghe’s planned visit to the Pen­tagon later this year. The visit was meant to con­tinue the con­struc­tive trend of fre­quent high-level mil­i­tary vis­its be­tween the two coun­tries, said Cui Tiankai, Chi­nese am­bas­sador to the US, on July 30.

Ear­lier this year, the ground force chief of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, Gen­eral Han Weiguo, vis­ited the US, and US De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis, vis­ited Bei­jing in late June, Cui added.

Ex­perts also called the sanc­tions a “ma­li­cious move” that have 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 De­fense 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 mod­ern­iza­tion process of the PLA,” he said. “The sanc­tions also try to make an ex­am­ple out of China and bully other coun­tries to re­frain from buy­ing mil­i­tary equip­ment from Rus­sia.”

Rus­sia is the world’s sec­ond largest weapons seller after the US, and has deals with US al­lies such as Mo­rocco, Al­ge­ria, Egypt, Qatar and Tur­key, ac­cord­ing to CNN. 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.

Fan Jishe, a re­searcher of US stud­ies at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sci­ences, said the US is “sham­ing and in­sult­ing” China by putting EDD and its direc­tor in the crosshairs of the new sanc­tions over the three-day Mid-Au­tumn Fes­ti­val hol­i­day, which ends on Mon­day.

“It is very dis­heart­en­ing to see the US govern­ment tak­ing a con­fronta­tional ap­proach to is­sues that could have been re­solved diplo­mat­i­cally,” he said.

FED­ERICO PARRA / AFP

Venezue­lan dancers wel­come the Chi­nese hospi­tal ship upon its ar­rival at the port of La Guaira, Venezuela, on Satur­day. The ship, on which most surg­eries are pos­si­ble, will of­fer free med­i­cal as­sis­tance to the coun­try for a week.

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