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.

Source: WSJ