China has criticized what it calls “arbitrary sanctions” Washington imposed on Iran after the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) launched retaliatory missile strikes on the US’ Ain al-Assad base in Iraq.

Speaking in a press briefing on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang expressed Beijing’s “clear-cut” opposition to Washington’s unilateral sanctions.

“We believe wanton use or threat of sanctions won’t solve any problem. We hold that purposes and principles of the UN Charter and basic norms governing international relations should be complied with in state-to-state relations,” he noted.

His comments came after the Trump administration hit senior officials and the manufacturing and metals sectors in Iran with new sanctions in reaction to Iran’s retaliatory missile strikes against the Ain al-Assad base in Iraq.

The sanctions were announced by Steven Mnuchin, the US Treasury secretary, and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, in a press conference at the White House on Friday.

The new bans also hit a Chinese trading company, a Chinese shipping vessel and an Oman-based supplier for facilitating and engaging in business with the Iranian metals sector.

The Treasury secretary said the sanctions would not only ban US businesses from transactions with those Iranian targets, but would also be “secondary” in nature, meaning entities from third countries would also be prevented from doing business with those targets.

In his Monday press briefing, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman urged “the US to cease immediately the wrongful sanctions on Chinese businesses.”

“We will continue to staunchly defend Chinese enterprises’ legitimate rights and interests,” he noted.

He also called on the US to respect the lawful and justified cooperation between Tehran and Beijing.

“China and Iran have been conducting mutually-beneficial cooperation in various sectors within the framework of international law. Such cooperation, which is justified and lawful and doesn’t harm any third party’s interests, should be respected and protected,” he said.

The Chinese spokesman further pointed to the recent escalation of tensions between Iran and the US, and said that “differences should be properly handled in peaceful ways through dialogue and negotiation.”

“China calls on all parties concerned to view what has happened based on their own merits and stick to the general direction of political settlement. Concrete steps should be taken to defuse the [Persian] Gulf situation and jointly uphold regional peace and stability,” he added.

His comments come as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he has urged China to cut off the minimal flow of Iranian oil exports to the country.

The US Secretary of Treasury threatened that China and even European countries could face US sanctions over Iranian oil.

“China is subject to sanctions just like everybody else,” Mnuchin said. “We actually sanctioned some of their shipping companies that were involved in the oil, and we will continue to pursue sanctions activities against China and anybody else around the world that continues to do business with them”.