By Daphne Psaledakis and Michelle Nichols
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on a China-based network over accusations it has shipped aerospace parts to an Iranian company involved in the production of drones that Tehran has used to attack oil tankers and exported to Russia.
The U.S. Treasury Department targeted five companies and one person in the network for selling and shipping thousands of aerospace components, including those that can be used for drones, to the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company.
The company, known as HESA, has been involved in producing the Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) model that Iran has used to attack oil tankers and exported to Russia, the U.S. Treasury said in a statement.
Iran's U.N. mission in New York and China's embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
"Iran is directly implicated in the Ukrainian civilian casualties that result from Russia's use of Iranian UAVs in Ukraine," Treasury's head of terrorism and financial intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in the statement.
"The United States will continue to target global Iranian procurement networks that supply Russia with deadly UAVs for use in its illegal war in Ukraine," he said.
Iran has acknowledged sending drones to Russia but said they were sent before Russia's February 2022 invasion on Ukraine. Moscow has denied its forces used Iranian drones in Ukraine.
The U.S. move on Thursday comes after the United States has accused China of considering supplying arms to Russia and warned Beijing against such a move. Western powers have provided Ukraine with billions of dollars in weapons to defend against Russia.
China has vehemently denied the U.S. claims and said that "sending weapons will not bring peace" in Ukraine.
The U.S. sanctions announced on Thursday freeze any U.S. assets of those designated and generally bars Americans from dealing with them. Those engaged in certain transactions with them also risk being hit by sanctions.
The White House has said that Iran could be contributing to war crimes in Ukraine by providing drones to Russia that have been used to target civilian infrastructure.
Moscow and Tehran have moved to forge closer relations after Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, prompting sweeping Western sanctions. Russia and Iran, which is also under Western sanctions, are among the world's largest oil exporters.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Michelle Nichols; Additional reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)