Closer cooperation between China and Iran, especially on economic matters, is inevitable given they are both now targets of rising US antagonism, analysts said.
Washington has become increasingly aggressive in its tone towards Tehran in the past year, with President Donald Trump warning Tehran on Sunday that: "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!"
Pentagon officials are expected to brief national security officials on Thursday on a plan to send an extra 10,000 US troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran, which is a major oil exporter.
Meanwhile, the US remains locked in a trade war with China, with both countries ramping up tariffs on each other's goods after negotiations aimed at resolving the 10-month dispute faltered early this month.
Mohsen Shariatinia, an assistant professor of international relations at the Shaid Beheshti National University in Tehran, said the United States' actions had made enhanced cooperation between Beijing and Tehran "not a choice, but a necessity".
"China and Iran are facing a common threat now," he said. "The US' long-arm jurisdiction, already fully applied against Iran, will gradually apply to China as well."
In a sign of closer relations between the two nations, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Beijing on Friday where he was received by his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
According to a statement published by China's foreign ministry, Wang reiterated Beijing's support for the 2015 nuclear deal - which effectively curbed Iran's nuclear ambitions - but which Trump dismissed as the "worst deal ever" for the US.
Also on Friday, the Chinese oil tanker Pacific Bravo departed from the Persian Gulf laden with about 2 million barrels of Iranian oil.
Believed to be heading for China - according to TankerTrackers.com - Pacific Bravo was the first major tanker to load Iranian oil after May 2, the date on which the US ended the waiver that allowed eight countries, China among them, to buy Iranian oil without breaching US sanctions.
Earlier, another ship, the Marshall Z, which had also been involved in helping Iran to circumvent the sanctions, docked in the Chinese port of Zhoushan, according to ship tracking data on Refinitiv Eikon.
Wang Jian, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing had to tread carefully in its dealing with Iran as its trade war with the US was already providing a significant challenge.
"The US could use sanctions (against China), which would have a significant impact (on its economy)," he said.
Xiao Xian, an expert on Middle Eastern studies at China's Yunnan University, said Beijing might try to counter the United States' long-arm jurisdiction over Iran by using the yuan or euro to settle its trade deals with the oil-rich country.
But it would not want its relationship with Iran to extend beyond cooperation on economic matters, he said.
"It has never been China's intention or interest to become too involved in the Middle East."
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