China said it may limit its "counterproliferation" work with Washington over U.S. steps to punish an accused violator of Iran sanctions, Reuters reports.
China's foreign ministry on Wednesday said Beijing "resolutely opposes" new U.S. actions to target Li Fangwei, a Chinese entrepreneur described by the Treasury Department as a "known proliferator for Iran's ballistic missile program." Treasury on Tuesday announced penalties against eight firms operated by Li, and the State Department announced a $5 million bounty in a bid to detain him, Reuters reported separately.
Federal prosecutors on Tuesday accused Li of evading prior U.S. penalties through an expanding array of front firms, the Wall Street Journal reported. They seized $6.9 million in money linked to the alleged proliferator, according to Reuters.
David Cohen, Treasury Department under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the United States "will continue vigorously to enforce [its] sanctions, even as we explore the possibility of a comprehensive deal addressing Iran’s nuclear program."
Beijing is one of five governments working with Washington in an ongoing multilateral dialogue on Iran's nuclear program. Washington and other Western governments hope the talks will lead to long-term limits on Iran's weapon-usable nuclear activities, though Tehran insists its atomic intentions are peaceful.
"The U.S. [actions against Li] won't help solve the problem and will also impair our nonproliferation cooperation," the Journal quoted foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang as saying. "We urge the U.S. to stop sanctions of companies and individuals and come back to the right track of nonproliferation cooperation."
He added that Beijing closely monitors its own trade rules and would "seriously deal" with any breaches, Reuters reported.
Li has asserted innocence in the past, but he was unavailable on Tuesday to respond to the latest U.S. actions.