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Nine sentenced for fentanyl production, sale in north China

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In joint case with U.S., China jails nine fentanyl smugglers

A reprieved death sentence has the possibility of being commuted down to a life sentence, if the person shows good behavior within the allotted period.

The illegal trade in fentanyl has exacerbated the already-strained relationship between the United States and China due to their ongoing trade war.

On its part, China has attempted to balance the need to appease Trump on the fentanyl issue, while insisting it is not the main source of illicit fentanyl flow to the US and that American politicians are using the accusations as a political weapon.

The United States has long accused China of being the main source of the highly addictive drug, with President Trump charging in August that Beijing had reneged on its promise to crack down on fentanyl. Top Chinese officials later pushed back, saying China has made good-faith efforts to fight fentanyl production and urged Trump not to link the opioid dispute with broader US complaints over Chinese trade practices.

That tightrope act was on display again on Thursday's press conference in Hebei.

Yu Haibin, a senior official with China's National Narcotics Control Commission, told reporters in Xingtai it was vital to crack down on demand, as well as supply.

"This further demonstrates the Chinese government's consistent attitude of zero tolerance towards drug crimes", he said. "It should not be related with the trade war or other political reasons".

The court in northern Hebei province described the case as the first successful joint US-Chinese probe related to fentanyl smuggling, and US officials also hailed the verdict. They arrested more than 20 suspects and seized 11.9 kilograms (26.2 pounds) of fentanyl and 19.1 kilograms (42.1 pounds) of other drugs.

Yu said that the issue of fentanyl was not something any one country could resolve.

White House "drug czar, quot; Jim Carroll said after meetings with Chinese officials in September that the two countries had promised "full cooperation, quot; against fentanyl, and he was convinced that Beijing had pledged to persecute the traffickers".

USA drug enforcement officials have pointed to China as the source of much of the fentanyl and related supplies.

The Chinese foreign ministry had then announced that Beijing had "decided to schedule the entire category of fentanyl-type substances as controlled substances, and start the process of revising relevant laws and regulations".

Scrambling to contain surging overdose deaths, Washington has blamed Beijing for failing to curb the supply of synthetic drugs that US officials say come mainly from China.

The widely-publicized sentencing on Thursday will likely help Trump sell his trade deal at home where he's facing a skeptical business community and farmers hurt by his tariffs.

Austin Moore, an attaché to China for the U.S. Homeland Security Department, said the case was "an important step" showing that Chinese and U.S. investigators have the capacity to collaborate across worldwide borders.

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