Just add China to the list of those not supporting Iran's efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
Speaking at the end of a six-day visit to the Middle East, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao delivered a firm warning to Tehran against developing nuclear weapons, seemingly choosing, according to Chinese foreign policy experts, not to jeopardize China's standing with the international community for the sake of Iran.
China adamantly opposes Iran developing and possessing nuclear weapons, Wen said Thursday, while nonetheless defending his country's extensive oil trade with its longtime ally amidst a slew of Western sanctions on Iran.
Iran has consistently maintained that its nuclear aims are peaceful, but if the West goes through with its sanctions, Tehran has threatened to cut off oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz, a critically important route for much of the Middle East's oil exports, Reuters reported. About one-fifth of the world's oil supply flows through the narrow waterway.
Iran would not have wanted China to make this statement, but Iran must understand that if it comes down to a choice, China will not alienate itself from the rest of the world for the sake of a single country, Yu Guoqing, a research on the Middle East at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told reporters.
The fact that the Chinese Premier toured three of the world's biggest oil-and-gas producers during his Mid East sojourn was also not lost on foreign policy experts, who suggested that this was Wen's attempt to seek alternative energy sources, the Daily Telegraph reported. Indeed, the Washington Post reported that China has already trimmed its oil imports from Iran in January from a daily average of around 550,000 barrels to 285,000 barrels a day.
Some people said my visit was to secure oil, which is narrow-minded, Wen said. I came here for friendship. I also want to clearly point out that China's oil trade with Iran is normal trade activity. I don't have this or that worry about China's oil supplies, and this time I didn't discuss this issue with the leaders of each country.
Last week, the Obama administration invoked a new law to sanction China's state-run Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp, reportedly Iran's largest supplier of refined petroleum products. And earlier this month, Obama signed a new law that penalizes foreign financial institutions from doing business with Iran's central bank, which processes payments from oil exports.