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US slaps sanctions on Chinese military over its relationship with Russia

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (center) reviews a military honor guard with Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) during a welcoming ceremony June 8 outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The U.S. has slapped sanctions on the Chinese military over China's relationship with Russia. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. has imposed sanctions on China's military after China purchased military equipment from Russia.

What happened?

On Thursday, the State Department announced that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had imposed sanctions "on the Chinese entity Equipment Development Department and its director, Li Shangfu" for "engaging in significant transactions" with people on the department's List of Specified Persons. President Donald Trump then signed an executive order authorizing the sanctions.

The List of Specified Persons is a list of people or entities that the State Department has determined are either part of "or operating for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation." While people on that list are not all necessarily hit with sanctions themselves, anyone that "engages in a significant transaction" with someone mentioned there could be opening themselves up to sanctions.

The EDD and Li have both now been added to this list. In addition, they will be excluded from the U.S. financial system and denied export licenses.

What did China do to earn these sanctions?

China bought S-400 missiles and 10 Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets from Russia, and has refused to join the U.S. and its allies in imposing sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine and in U.S. politics. China received these missiles and jets in December and January.

These sanctions are not related to the ongoing trade dispute between the two nations.

Has China responded?

China's Foreign Ministry asked the U.S. to reconsider the sanctions. In an official statement, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that "China expresses strong indignation at these unreasonable actions by the U.S.  side and has already lodged stern representations." He added:

We strongly urge the U.S. side to immediately correct the mistake and rescind the so-called sanctions, otherwise the U.S. side will necessarily bear responsibility for the consequences.

It is unclear at this point what those consequences might be.

What else?

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has slammed these sanctions as "yet another act of unfair competition."

Sergei Ryabkov, deputy foreign minister, warned that the U.S. was "playing with fire."

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