'Senior Donald Trump administration officials are pushing sanctions against China claiming the Asian power defied American sanctions when it imported more than a million barrels of crude oil from Iran last month, according to three US officials.
According to Politico, the US State Department had considered of using an Obama-era loophole to issue a waiver allowing Chinese companies to receive Iranian oil as payment for their investment in an Iranian oil field, violating the Trump administration’s earlier pledge to bring Iranian oil exports down to zero. But the plan has been discarded.
Hawkish officials on the US National Security Council are now considering imposing sanctions on Chinese entities amid already worsening ties between the two countries on trade issues, the Politico website reported on Thursday.
The Trump administration has been trying to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero to increase “maximum pressure” on Tehran. It has had some success in persuading several of Iran’s largest oil buyers like India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey to curb their purchases but it could not achieve its stated objective of bringing Iran’s crude exports to zero.
As Iran’s largest oil buyer, China has defied the Trump administration’s demand that it gradually bring the imports to zero. Some of the countries, which have robust trade, diplomatic and security relationship with the US, are still buying significant volumes of Iranian oil.
Much of the rhetoric from the State Department has specified that the US is targeting purchases — rather than imports — of Iranian oil, a distinction that will become important under the law if the department decides to give China a pass.
The US decided not to extend its sanctions waivers to eight importers of Iranian crude after the exemptions expired at the beginning of May, but Iran is operating in the shadows of the global oil market.
Earlier this year, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with top oil executives to press them on following the Trump administration’s policy of reducing Iran’s oil exports to zero.'
Read more: US officials push for sanctions on China over buying Iranian oil: Report
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