Feb. 17 (UPI) -- China has a message to President Donald Trump if he imposes heavy tariffs on steel and aluminum imports: The Asian nation will retaliate.
On Friday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recommended that Trump impose trade measures against foreign suppliers of the metals because of national security. Trump plans to make a decision by April on the recommendation, which includes a 53 percent tariff on steel from 12 countries, including China.
The United States is the world's largest importer of steel, according to the Commerce Department.
"If the United States' final decision affects China's interests, we will take necessary measures to defend our rights," said Wang Hejun, a senior official at China's Commerce Ministry, according to a report Saturday by state-run news agency Xinhua.
Last month, Trump imposed 30 percent tariffs on imports of solar panels and washing machines, including businesses in China.
After the solar panels and washing machines tariffs were revealed, China announced it is investigating U.S. exports of sorghum, an agricultural product, and imposing a tariff on styrene, which is used to make plastic products.
The Chinese Commerce Ministry urged the United States to "exercise restraint in using trade protection tools, and observe multilateral rules," according to the Xinhua report.
China has been accused of dumping cheaply produced steel and aluminum at low prices.
China's Commerce Ministry said the reports the nation is threatening U.S. national security are "groundless."
"The spectrum of national security is very broad," Wang Hejun, director of the commerce ministry's trade remedy and investigation bureau, told the South China Morning Post. "Without a clear definition, it could easily be abused. If every country followed the US on this, it would have serious ramifications on the international trade order.
"If the final decision from the U.S. hurts China's interests, we will definitely take necessary measures to protect our rights."
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated China exported 688,793 metric tons of steel products to the United States through 11 months in 2017, down by about 5 percent from 2016.