Russia says U.S. secondary sanctions aim to 'contain' China

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The United States is using the threat of secondary sanctions against Chinese businesses seen as engaging with Russia as a "pretext" to try and contain Beijing, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday.

Zakharova was answering a question about U.S. sanctions issued on Wednesday on nearly 300 targets - including Chinese companies - seen as helping Moscow to circumvent existing Western sanctions.

"China's economy irritates the U.S. to an extreme degree, so U.S. sanctions should be seen as an attempt to hold onto (its) economic leadership in the absence of any real opportunity to do so legally," Zakharova told a weekly press briefing.

"Russia is just a pretext," she said.

The new Treasury sanctions specifically targeted firms in countries including China, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates that it accused of enabling Moscow to acquire dual-use technologies and equipment from abroad.

The State Department also imposed sanctions on four China-based companies it accused of supporting Russia's defence industrial base, including by shipping critical items to entities under U.S. sanctions in Russia.

Asked to comment on the U.S. sanctions, Zakharova said: "You know, this is a trade war that is going at full speed for the redistribution of the market, for the United States to maintain its own pace of development.

"Their lack of resources pushes them to such aggressive actions", she added, referring to secondary sanctions.

(Reporting by Dmitry Antonov; Writing by Lucy Papachristou; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Jonathan Oatis)