Reporting from Washington — China insisted Tuesday that it has not shifted its approach on Iran's nuclear program, despite White House claims on Monday that Beijing had become more open to sanctions on Tehran.
Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Beijing that "China has always believed that sanctions and pressure cannot fundamentally resolve the issue" of concern about Iran's nuclear program, according to the official New China News Agency.
She said that China "upholds its consistent stance on the Iran nuclear issue." Beijing opposes Iran gaining nuclear weapons and supports a "dual-track strategy," combining negotiations with pressure, she said.
On Monday, White House officials said that President Obama had received Chinese President Hu Jintao's promise to cooperate in developing a new round of sanctions against Iran.
"They're prepared to work with us," said Jeffrey Bader, a senior National Security Council official.
Obama addressed the apparent discrepancy during a news conference Tuesday at the conclusion of the nuclear security summit in Washington. Despite Beijing's ties to Iran, it is more willing now to consider sanctions than it was a year ago, the president said. He added that he wanted broad international agreement on new sanctions soon.
"The Chinese are obviously concerned about what ramifications this might have on the economy generally," Obama said. "A lot of countries around the world have trade relations with Iran. And we're mindful of that."
The sanctions are aimed at dissuading Tehran from proceeding with a nuclear program that many world powers believe is aimed at developing weapons. Tehran contends that it wants nuclear power only for peaceful purposes.
The Obama administration, like the George W. Bush administration before it, has struggled to win commitments from China and Russia to cooperate on Iran. U.S. officials have repeatedly claimed progress in winning over the two countries, both permanent Security Council members, only to see them seemingly head in a different direction days later.
The White House has recently asserted common ground with Moscow on the issue. Yet last week, in an appearance with Obama in Prague, Czech Republic, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stressed that there were limits to the sanctions that his country was willing to impose.
"There is no contradiction between continuing diplomatic efforts and at the same time working together on a sanctions resolution in New York," a senior Obama administration official said Tuesday. "We believe a sanctions resolution is the best way to get back to . . . negotiations at some stage."