China Warns Citizens Traveling to U.S. to 'Stay Alert and Take Safety Precautions,' As Iran Tensions Increase

The Chinese government has issued a travel warning to its citizens to be cautious while traveling to the U.S. due to the increased tensions with Iran following President Donald Trump's decision to carry out a military strike to kill the Persian Gulf nation's popular military commander Qassem Soleimani on Friday.

"The Chinese embassy suggests and reminds Chinese citizens in the U.S. to closely watch the security situation, stay alert and take safety precautions, be cautious before going to public places," China's embassy in Washington said in Sunday statement, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

Soleimani, the leader of Iran's elite Quds Force, was killed in the U.S. strike as his vehicle drove from the Baghdad airport after he arrived in Iraq. Iran has vowed retaliation, and many American lawmakers and analysts have warned of the growing possibility of war.

"The path of resistance to U.S. excesses will continue. The great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime," Iranian President Hasan Rouhani wrote in a Friday tweet.

However, General Hossein Dehghan, a top military adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ayatollah Khamenei, told CNN that his nation planned to attack American military targets.

"The response for sure will be military and against military sites," Dehghan said.

"It was America that has started the war. Therefore, they should accept appropriate reactions to their actions," he added.

Rouhani and Xi
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and China's President Xi Jinping attend a welcoming ceremony at the Xijiao State Guesthouse in Shanghai on May 22, 2014 Kenzaburo Fukuhara/AFP/Getty

China was a signatory of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear deal. The international treaty was also signed by the administration of President Barack Obama, as well as the European Union, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Russia. It offered Iran sanctions relief and international investment in exchange for the nation's commitment to curb its nuclear program.

Consistent reporting from the United Nations nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran was following through on its commitments under the deal, but Trump had long been critical of the Obama-negotiated pact. He formally withdrew from the treaty in May 2018 and reimplemented sanctions, a decision that was condemned by the other signatories.

China and the other nations attempted to salvage the deal, but Iran began taking steps to withdraw from the JCPOA in May 2019, one year after Trump reimplemented sanctions. On Sunday, in the wake of Soleimani's killing, Iran announced that it would abandon all of its commitments under the nuclear deal.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his counterpart in Iran, Javad Zarif, on Friday that the U.S. should stop "abusing the use of force" and called its military actions "risky," according to Reuters. He also promised that China would "play a constructive role in maintaining peace and security in the Middle East."

A Sunday editorial published in The Global Times, a daily Chinese tabloid published by China's ruling Communist Party, warned that the U.S. and Iran should both be cautious.

"If the U.S. and Iran engage in war, it would do more harm than good to China," the editorial said. The author went on to note the potential economic fallout to China from the escalating conflict.

"Chinese purchases of oil from the Middle East lead the world by volume, which means China is far more dependent on the region's oil than the U.S. China also has large investments in Iran, Iraq and many other Middle Eastern countries already linked to China's economic interests," the article emphasized.