U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced this week 10 European countries and Japan were exempt from U.S. sanctions on Tehran because of their decision to "significantly" reduce the amount of oil they import from Iran.
Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said China is importing oil based on economic needs and without violating relevant measures at the U.N. Security Council.
"China opposes any country implementing unilateral sanctions on the other country according to its domestic law," he was quoted by China's official Xinhua news agency as saying.
Zhang Guobao, former head of China's National Energy Administration, told Bloomberg News early this month market prices, not sanctions, were the determining factor in Beijing's crude oil decisions.
Economic ties between Beijing and Washington have become strained in recent months. This week, the U.S. government said it was investigating subsidies Beijing has in place for its solar power industry. The U.S. and European governments later announced plans to ask the World Trade Organization to press Beijing on its trade policies regarding rare-earth minerals.