China’s oil imports from Iran rebounded in May and neared their levels at the same time last year, despite the U.S. threat of sanctions on countries and companies that import Iranian crude.

The Wall Street Journal reports that recent statistics indicate that while the oil imports from Iran had dropped sharply in the early months of this year, China has once again ramped up its purchase of Iranian crude.

The statistics were released just one day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her satisfaction with China’s shrinking reliance on Iranian oil.

According to The Wall Street Journal, China’s customs department said “crude imports from Iran slipped 2.3% in May compared with a year earlier, to 2.2 million metric tons, or 524,000 barrels a day, allowing Iran to reclaim its spot as China’s third-largest supplier after it slipped earlier this year. May data also showed imports rose 38.99% compared with April.”

The report adds, however, that even if China were to maintain last year’s import levels for the rest of 2012, its full-year imports would still be 12 percent lower than in 2011.

Experts say that level of reduction might be enough to convince the United States to exempt China from U.S. sanctions, which will take effect on June 28, as the U.S. may not have the stomach for a political fight with Beijing.