Beijing Wednesday strongly opposed US sanctions on a Chinese bank over transactions with Iran, urging Washington to revoke them while stating that it would lodge an official protest.
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded the US lift sanctions on the Bank of Kunlun and stop damaging bilateral relations between the two countries.
The Bank of Kunlun, which is affiliated with the China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), said that the operation of the bank is proceeding as usual, while denying that the sanctions would influence their decisions.
"The bank couldn't disclose any loan amounts to Iran as the details are business secrets," the bank's media spokesman surnamed Zou told the Global Times, adding that the bank would handle the matter properly with help from related governmental departments.
Qin Gang, a foreign ministry spokesman, said on Wednesday that the US is "seriously violating the norms of international relations and is damaging China's interests" by imposing sanctions on a Chinese financial institution using domestic laws.
"China has regular relations with Iran in the fields of trade and energy, which have no connection with Iran's nuclear plans," he added.
US President Barack Obama on Tuesday imposed new economic sanctions on Iran's oil export sector, and on China's Bank of Kunlun and Iraq's Elaf Islamic Bank, which are accused of doing business with Tehran, according to AFP.
The US remains committed to finding a diplomatic resolution to the standoff with Tehran, but is also determined to step up the pressure, Obama said in a statement accompanying his order authorizing the sanctions, Reuters reported.
Obama is also expanding sanctions on the purchase or acquisition of Iranian petrochemical products. The sanctions are authorized in part for those who provide support to the National Iranian Oil Company and the Central Bank of Iran, according to AP.
Yi Xianrong, a professor at the Institute of Finance and Banking at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that due to CNPC's close business relations with the US, the bank couldn't be totally free from influence of the sanctions.
"The US will try to punish the bank by issuing fines or interfering in its business with US banks," Yi said.
Under a law aimed at pressing Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, the US will bar financial institutions that deal with Iran's central bank from doing business in the US.
"The US is broadening the range of the sanctions from not only the international oil trade with Iran, but any financial activities with Iran," Shi Yinhong, professor of international studies at Renmin University of China told the Global Times.
The sanctions followed criticism from Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney that the White House is failing to act strongly enough to stop Iran's suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons, Reuters reported.
Shi said the election is one of the reasons behind the new sanctions, but added that the US also wants Iran to give up their nuclear projects as soon as possible due to concerns that Israel may take military action.
This is not the first time Chinese companies have been included in US sanctions due to business connections with Iran. Three Chinese companies were included in sanction lists in May last year for allegedly transferring restricted or military devices and technology to Iran.
Liu Sha contributed to this story