China backed sanctions to show its global might, analysts say
Beijing contends door to diplomacy has not been shut
BEIJING — China’s about-face in backing new nuclear sanctions against Iran was borne out of frustration with Tehran’s intransigence and a desire to display global leadership alongside its rising financial and diplomatic clout, analysts said yesterday.
A key Iranian ally, China had been a vocal opponent of a fourth round of sanctions and could have used its power as one of five permanent UN Security Council members to veto the resolution.
Instead, Beijing spurned the opportunity to play spoiler, voting Wednesday in favor of the resolution targeting Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, ballistic missiles, and nuclear-related investments in a bid to compel Tehran to cooperate with international inspectors.
“China hopes that this method will show Iran that China has principles and is a responsible major nation,’’ said Yao Jide, an Iran specialist at Yunnan University’s School of International Relations.
China’s Foreign Ministry, however, said yesterday that its support for fresh sanctions should not block efforts to find a diplomatic solution and called for renewed attempts to bring Iran back to the negotiating table.
“China has repeated on many occasions that the resolution adopted by the UN Security Council does not mean that the door to diplomatic efforts is closed,’’ said spokesman Qin Gang.
Beijing has said it opposes nuclear weapons for Iran but supports an Iranian civilian nuclear energy program.
China traditionally opposes sanctions, but it went along with the first three sanctions resolutions against Iran.
Tehran insists its program is peaceful, while the United States and its allies say Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons.
They want Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and start negotiations aimed at ensuring that it uses nuclear technology only for peaceful purposes.
While details of the negotiations were not known, Beijing appeared to have been satisfied that the sanctions would not harm its economic ties with Iran, with whom bilateral trade reached at least $36.5 billion last year.
Iran meets 11 percent of China’s energy needs, and Chinese companies have major investments in Iranian energy extraction projects and the construction of roads, bridges, and power plants.
China had sought to avoid a sanctions vote, saying earlier this year that it was wrong to even discuss such measures as long as a negotiated settlement remained possible.
Its support for sanctions came about only in recent months after intense lobbying by the United States and its allies, including Israel.
Beijing was confronted with the prospect of diplomatic isolation over the issue, especially as fellow skeptic Russia began signaling it was losing patience with Tehran.