The US has imposed sanctions on China and Iran for ballistic missile cooperation, which will deprive a large Chinese conglomerate of more than US$100 million in annual exports to the US over the next two years, according to US documents and officials.
One US official said on Thursday the sanctions imposed on North China Industries were believed to be the most severe penalty ever leveled against a Chinese entity. The Iranian company sanctioned was Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group.
"This one is big," the official said of the US decision.
The sanctions were disclosed in documents on file with the Federal Register, an official vehicle for reporting new federal regulations and decisions. They took effect on May 9.
"What the Chinese did with Iran is make a specific transfer that made a material contribution to the Iranian ballistic missile program," the official said, declining to be more specific.
The transfer occurred after Beijing in August last year promulgated new export control laws advocated for years by the US as a means of stemming the flow of technology used in weapons of mass destruction.
The sanctions decision came as US relations with China have been improving in many areas and before an expected meeting between US President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) next month.
The Bush administration has intensified its efforts to rally international concern over Iran's nuclear program, which Washington believes is moving quickly toward production of atomic weapons.
"This shows that despite cooperation on a variety of important issues like the war on terrorism and resolving the North Korean nuclear threat ... we still take the proliferation of WMD very seriously," the official said.
"What we're trying to do is to suggest to China that they need to crack down on their companies more," he added.
He said he did not expect the US to link the sanctions to other issues and policies.
North China Industries, or Norinco, is one of China's largest conglomerates and produces a diverse line of products.
Its Web site lists its main products as vehicles and mechanical products, optical-electronic products, chemical products, explosives and blasting materials, civil firearms and ammunition, light industrial products, firefighting equipment, building materials, metal and nonmetal materials and "special products."
US officials estimated more than US$100 million in Norinco products were exported annually to the US.
Under the sanctions, "whatever Norinco and all of its subsidiaries export to us for two years is banned," the official said.