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China warns US over ‘extreme pressure’ on Iran amid heightened tensions

From left, China's President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands on Nov. 9, 2017, during a meeting outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Artyom Ivanov/Tass/Abaca Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

China has warned the United States to ease what it calls its “extreme pressure methods” on Iran as concerns about a possible confrontation between Washington and Tehran mount.

Speaking in the Chinese capital after a meeting with Syria’s foreign minister, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi, the government’s top diplomat, also called on Iran to remain in a nuclear accord with world powers.

Relations between the United States and Iran have been tense since U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew from an international agreement that restricted Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman over the past week have exacerbated the situation, with Washington blaming Iran for the incidents, an accusation Tehran has strongly denied.

“We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions, and not open a Pandora’s box,” Wang said.

“In particular, the U.S. side should alter its extreme pressure methods.… Any unilateral behavior has no basis in international law. Not only will it not resolve the problem, it will only create an even greater crisis,” he added.

On June 17, the U.S. military released additional photos that it claims bolster allegations that Iran was responsible for the oil tanker attacks.

Washington has said the photos appeared to show an attempt to remove evidence from the scene of the incident.

The same day, the Pentagon announced it would send some 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East because of the tanker attack, saying the troops were “for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East.”

Iranian President Hassan Rohani appeared to take a measured approach to the allegations, saying in a speech on state television on June 18 that his country “will not wage war against any nation.”

But he also fired a shot across the bow of the Trump administration, saying “those facing us are a group of politicians with little experience.”

The United States has also accused Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) of attempting to shoot down a U.S. drone that was monitoring the tankers when the attack occurred.

On June 17, Iran’s nuclear energy agency said Tehran would surpass a uranium-stockpile limit set by the 2015 nuclear deal within the next 10 days. Agency head Behrouz Kamalvandi added that Iran will continue to allow the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor its nuclear facilities for now.

Trump has said the 2015 deal was “fatally flawed” because it did not address Iran’s ballistic-missile program or Tehran’s purported support for terrorist organizations.

In April, Trump designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, the first time the United States has labeled another nation’s military as a terrorist group.