An “outraged” China on Friday lodged a diplomatic protest with the US for imposing punitive sanctions on its military unit for buying Russian weapons, warning of “consequences” if the sanctions are not revoked.

The US State Department said on Thursday that the purchases of Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 surface-to-air missiles by China’s Equipment Development Department (EDD) of China’s Ministry of Defence violated US sanctions on Russia. Both the EDD and its director, Li Shangfu, have been named in Thursday’s sanctions.

It is the first time the Trump administration targeted a third country with its Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA), designed to punish Russia for its seizure of Crimea and other activities.

Reacting to the US move, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, “China is strongly outraged by this unreasonable action of the US and lodged stern representations. What the US has done gravely violated the basis norms governing the international relations and harmed the state-to-state and military-to-military relations between the two sides.”

“We strongly urge the US side to address this mistake and revoke so called sanctions otherwise it will need to shoulder all possible consequences,” he said.

Asked whether China would continue its close intelligence and defence cooperation with Russia, Geng said, “China and Russia are comprehensive strategic partners of coordination. We have been having normal exchanges of cooperation on the basis of equality, mutual trust and mutual benefit in various fields including national defence. The China-Russia defence cooperation is meant to safeguard the two nations’ legitimate interests and regional peace and stability.”

It targets no third country and violates with no international law, he added. “We will work with Russia to implement the consensus reached by two leaders and move forward our strategic coordination,” he said referring to the close ties between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Founded in 2016 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the EDD was tasked with overseeing and improving the country’s military technology. It is regarded as a key part of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC), the overall high command of the Chinese military headed by Xi.

The sanctions will deny EDD any foreign export licences, prohibit it from making foreign exchange transactions within US jurisdiction or using the US financial system, and block its property and interests within US control, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

Sanctions on Li will also prohibit his using the US financial system and making foreign exchanges, and block any of his property or interests. He will also be prohibited from having a US visa.

China, which relies on technology for its military modernisation has stepped up its military ties with Russia.

The sanctions are expected to heighten tensions between the US and China, which are currently engaged in a trade war. The two countries will launch new tariffs on Monday, with Washington targeting USD 200 billion in Chinese exports and Beijing hitting USD 60 billion worth of American products.