US Sanctions Chinese Military Unit for Buying Russian Fighter Jets, Missiles

September 20, 2018 Updated: September 20, 2018

WASHINGTON–The Trump administration imposed sanctions on the Chinese military on Sept. 20 for buying fighter jets and missile systems from Russia, in breach of a sweeping U.S. sanctions meant to punish Moscow for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

The State Department said it would immediately impose sanctions on China’s Equipment Development Department (EDD), the branch of the Chinese military responsible for weapons and equipment, and its director, Li Shangfu, for engaging in “significant transactions” with Rosoboronexport, Russia’s main arms exporter.

The sanctions are related to China’s purchase of 10 SU-35 combat aircraft in 2017 and S-400 surface-to-air missile system-related equipment in 2018, the State Department said.

They block the Chinese agency, and Li, from applying for export licenses and participating the U.S. financial system. It also adds them to the Treasury Department’s list of specially designated individuals with whom Americans are barred from doing business.

The administration also blacklisted an additional 33 people and entities associated with Russian military and intelligence, adding them to a list under the 2017 law, known Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

CAATSA also seeks to punish Russia for its aggression in Ukraine and involvement in Syria’s civil war.

Doing significant business with anyone on that list can trigger sanctions such as those imposed on China.

Some of those added to the list, which now contains 72 names, were indicted in connection with Russian interference in the U.S. election, the official said.

Earlier on Sept. 20, President Donald Trump issued an executive order intended to facilitate implementation of the sanctions.

A federal special counsel is leading a criminal investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election, and any possible cooperation with Trump’s presidential campaign. Trump has insisted there was no collusion with Russia; Moscow denies any effort to meddle in U.S. politics.

One U.S. administration official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said the sanctions imposed on the Chinese agency were aimed at Moscow, not Beijing or its military, despite an escalating trade war between the United States and China.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Patricia Zengerle.