U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is in Beijing for talks aimed at persuading Chinese officials to support U.S. sanctions against Iran's oil industry.
Geithner is seeking Chinese cooperation with recently enacted U.S. legislation that calls for sanctions against financial institutions that deal with Iran's central bank, which is its main clearinghouse for oil exports. The legislation is aimed at pressuring Tehran to end its controversial nuclear weapons program.
China is Iran's top oil customer, and has repeatedly opposed the U.S. sanctions, insisting they will not help get Iran to abandon its nuclear efforts. Beijing also has sought to separate its trade relations with Tehran from nuclear issues, saying its Iranian oil imports have nothing to do with Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Geithner's objectives are widely expected to be met with further resistance from Beijing, where authorities insist that mounting tensions between Washington and Tehran - including Iranian threats to close a key oil export route in the Persian Gulf - could lead to war.
Chinese diplomat Chen Xiaodong, writing Tuesday in official Chinese media, warned that military conflict would, in his words, "bring disaster to a world economy deep in crisis."
U.S. Treasury officials say Geithner also will discuss ways to promote global economic growth, and will bring up proposals they say would "level the playing field for U.S. workers and firms."
U.S. officials have long contended that China's currency, the yuan, is substantially undervalued. The U.S. says that gives Chinese exporters an unfair advantage and has led to a wide U.S. trade deficit with China.
Geithner meets Wednesday with Premier Wen Jiabao, Vice President Xi Jinping and Executive Vice Premier Li Keqiang. He travels Thursday to Japan, which relies on Iranian oil for 10 percent of its energy supply.
In November, the United States, Britain and Canada imposed additional sanctions on Iran, citing evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the claim, saying its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes.
In Moscow Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing "regret and concern," after Tehran announced this week that it had begun enriching uranium at a new facility near the city of Qom.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.