UPDATE 1-China sentences 9 to jail for smuggling fentanyl to U.S.

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XINGTAI, China, Nov 7 (Reuters) - A Chinese court on Thursday jailed nine people, one with a suspended death sentence, for smuggling fentanyl into the United States, saying this was the first such case the two countries had worked together on.

China has faced U.S. criticism for not doing enough to prevent the flow of fentanyl into the United States, and the issue has become another irritant in ties, already strained by a bruising trade war the two are now working to end.

Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opioid, 50 times more potent than heroin.

It is often used to make counterfeit narcotics because of its relatively cheap price and it has played an increasingly central role in an opioid crisis in the United States.

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The court in the northern city of Xingtai, in a statement given to reporters invited to cover the sentencing, said Chinese and U.S. law enforcement had worked together to break up the ring, which smuggled fentanyl and other opioids to the United States via courier.

One of the people sentenced by the court was given a suspended death sentence - which in practice is normally commuted to life in jail - and two got life sentences.

(Reporting by Huizhong Wu Writing by Ben Blanchard Editing by Kim Coghill, Robert Birsel)

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