China has sharply increased its imports of oil from Iran and Venezuela in a challenge to two Biden administration foreign-policy priorities, according to U.S. officials, undermining key diplomatic leverage Washington needs to restart long-stalled negotiations.

China is expected to import 918,000 barrels a day from Iran in March, which would be the highest volume since a full U.S. oil embargo was imposed against Tehran two years ago, according to commodities-data company Kpler.

That trend is confirmed by other shipping trackers, some of which see those sales at 1 million barrels a day.

“If it sells 1 million barrels a day at current prices, Iran has no incentive to negotiate,” said Sara Vakhshouri, president of Washington-based SVB Energy International and an expert on Iran’s oil industry.

President Biden’s administration has sought to engage with Iran to return to a 2015 nuclear deal that was exited by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump. But Tehran has rebuffed overtures so far.

By Benoit Faucon and Ian Talley 

March 19, 2021

China Buys More Iranian Oil, in a Test for Biden

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