China slams 'US adventurism' in Middle-East

"Worsening of the tensions in the Gulf region is the last thing anyone wants to see", said China, refering to the escalation of tensions post Soleimani killing by the US. Photo Credit: Reuters

China on Monday slammed what it called US "adventurism" which aggravated tensions in the Middle East and urged all parties to exercise restraint, saying Beijing was "highly concerned" over the worsening situation following the killing of a top Iranian general by America.

While sharply critical of US actions including threats of sanctions against Iraq, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, however, hinted that Beijing plans to go ahead with the signing of the phase one deal with the US next week to end the ongoing trade war.

The killing of Maj Gen Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite al-Quds force and architect of its regional security apparatus, was the most dramatic escalation yet in spiralling tensions between Iran and the US.

"China is highly concerned about the situation in the Middle East," Geng said when asked about US and Iran tensions.

"Worsening of the tensions in the Gulf region is the last thing anyone wants to see… Power politics is unpopular and unsustainable. The US adventurism goes against the basic norms governing international relations and aggravates tensions and instability in the region," he said.

China opposes the use of force in international relations, he added.

"Military means will lead nowhere and maximum pressure won't work either. We believe all sides should earnestly abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and basic norms governing international relations" he said.

"We urge the US not to abuse its force," Geng said as he called on the relevant parties to exercise restraint to prevent a spiral of tensions and escalation.

He also hinted that China will go ahead with its phase one trade deal with the US expected to be signed on January 15 to end the trade war despite its strong stand on American actions against Iran.

"China and the US reached phase one trade deal. The two sides are in close communication to follow-up the matter," he said.

US President Donald Trump had launched the trade war against China last year demanding Beijing to reduce the massive trade deficit.

Trump is also demanding an intrusive verification mechanism to supervise Beijing's promise to protect intellectual property rights (IPR) technology transfer and more access to American goods to Chinese markets.

Geng skirted direct reply to a question whether China plans to increase its military presence in the Gulf region in view of the tensions.

The airstrike killing Iranian General Soleimani took place days after the trilateral joint naval exercises between China, Iran, and Russia in the Gulf of Oman. The exercises were held from December 27 to 30.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited Beijing and held talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi just ahead of the Friday US airstrike.

Geng also criticised Trump's threat to impose harsh sanctions on Iraq like it has seen "never before" if US troops are expelled from Baghdad.

"We oppose the wanton use of sanctions and the threat of sanctions. We also oppose unilateral sanctions and so-called long-arm jurisdiction. Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity should be upheld," he said.

Iraqi lawmakers on Sunday approved a resolution asking the Iraqi government to end the agreement under which the US sent troops more than four years ago to help fight ISIS.

Geng defended Iran's plan to roll back its commitments on the nuclear deal. "We believe Iran is being forced to reduce its commitments due to certain external factors. At the same time, it is exercising restraint and clearly stated its political will for effective implementation" of the nuclear deal, he said.

"Now there is growing complexity in the situation in the Middle East," he said, adding that the Iranian nuclear deal is facing severe challenges due to unilateral withdrawal by the US' ignoring its international obligations which is the root cause of tensions in the Gulf region. 

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