Senior US administration officials have reportedly accused China of having defied US sanctions when it imported more than a million barrels of crude oil from Iran last month.
The State Department had considered issuing a waiver allowing Chinese companies to receive Iranian oil as payment in kind for their investment in an Iranian oil field, but that idea has been abandoned, POLITICO said in a report.
China hawks on the National Security Council are now pushing for the US to impose secondary sanctions on Chinese entities, a move that would complicate trade talks between the two countries and further strain the relationship.
The Trump administration has been pushing to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero as part of its policy of “maximum pressure” on Tehran amid the worsening standoff over Iran’s nuclear program following the US' unilateral withdrawal from the agreement last year.
China has reportedly welcomed a second batch of Iranian oil since its previous waiver expired in May — this one a 2-million barrel shipment that docked in Tianjin.
China’s continuing defiance would seem to undercut the Trump administration’s claim that its efforts to squeeze Iran are working. In a recent speech, national security adviser John Bolton announced that “all significant reduction exceptions on Iranian oil sales have gone to zero.”
Meanwhile, Iran has slamed the US and its allies for using oil as a political weapon to put more economic pressure on the Islamic Republic, emphasizing, however, that Washington will never be able to achieve its dream of cutting Tehran’s oil exports to zero.