WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who is due to meet China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Rome on Monday, warned Beijing it would face consequences “absolutely” if it helped Moscow evade sweeping sanctions over the war. in Ukraine.
Several US officials have said that Russia requested military equipment from China after it invaded Ukraine on February 24, raising concerns in the White House that Beijing could undermine Western efforts to help Ukrainian forces defend their country.
In his meeting with Yang, Sullivan plans to clarify Washington’s concerns while outlining the consequences and increasing isolation China would face globally if it increased its support for Russia, a US official said, without providing details.
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Asked about Russia’s request for military assistance, which was first reported by the Financial Times, Liu Bingyu, a spokesman for China’s embassy in Washington, said: “I’ve never heard of that.”
He said that China found the current situation in Ukraine “worrying,” adding, “We support and encourage all efforts that lead to a peaceful settlement of the crisis.”
“Maximum efforts should be made to support Russia and Ukraine in moving forward with negotiations despite the difficult situation to reach a peaceful outcome,” Liu said.
Sullivan told CNN on Sunday that Washington believed China knew Russia was planning some actions in Ukraine prior to the invasion, although Beijing may not have understood the full extent of what was planned.
After the invasion began, US officials said, Russia requested military equipment and support from China.
Sullivan told CNN that Washington is watching closely to see to what extent Beijing has provided economic or material support to Russia, and will impose consequences if that happens.
“We are communicating directly, in particular, with Beijing, that there will certainly be consequences for efforts to evade large-scale sanctions or support Russia to address them,” Sullivan said. “We will not allow this to go ahead and allow Russia to have a lifeline from these economic sanctions from any country anywhere in the world,” he added.
A senior Biden administration official said the meeting, planned for some time, is part of a broader effort by Washington and Beijing to maintain open channels of communication and manage competition between the world’s two largest economies.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that no specific results were expected.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the focus of the meeting was to “implement the important consensus” reached during the virtual meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden in November, which discussed “strategic stability” and arms control issues. Read more
In a statement posted on the ministry’s website, he said the two sides will exchange views on US-China relations, as well as international and regional issues of common concern.
Wang Huiao, head of the Beijing think-tank and an adviser to the Chinese government, warned of an “escalating spiral” in a column in the New York Times on Sunday, and said China was “uniquely positioned to play the role of a neutral mediator between Ukraine and Western-backed Russia” to end the war.
“Unpalatable because some in the West may find this idea, it is time to offer the Russian president a way out with the help of China,” Wang wrote.
US officials were skeptical about the proposal given China’s ties with Russia and its dissemination of disinformation regarding the war.
Trade relations between China and Russia
The United States said on Saturday it would send up to $200 million in additional weapons to Ukrainian forces in an effort to defend against Russian bombing in Europe’s biggest war since World War Two. Read more
Washington and its allies have imposed sweeping and unprecedented sanctions on Russia and banned its energy imports, while providing billions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Read more
They appealed, individually and collectively, to China, the Gulf states, and other nations that had failed to condemn the Russian invasion to join in isolating Russia from the global economy.
Beijing, Russia’s main trading partner, has refused to call Russia’s actions an invasion, although last week Xi called for “maximum restraint” in Ukraine after a virtual meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Schulz and French President Emmanuel Macron. Read more
Xi also expressed concern about the impact of sanctions on global finance, energy supplies, transportation and supply chains, amid growing indications that Western sanctions are limiting China’s ability to buy Russian oil. Read more
However, Hu Xijin, the former editor-in-chief of the Chinese state-backed newspaper Global Times, said on Twitter: “If Sullivan thinks he can persuade China to participate in sanctions against Russia, he will be disappointed.”
While in Rome, the US official said, Sullivan will meet with Luigi Mattiolo, diplomatic advisor to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, to continue coordinating a strong global response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “war of choice.”
Washington and the Group of Seven developed economies on Friday escalated pressure on Russia by calling for the abolition of its “most favored country” trade status, which would allow it to raise tariffs on Russian goods. Read more
Trade accounted for about 46% of the Russian economy in 2020, mostly with China, its largest export destination.
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Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal, Michael Martina, David Bronstrom and Costas Pettas; Additional reporting by Ismail Shakeel and Brenda Goh; Editing by Sandra Mahler, Margarita Choi, Heather Timmons, Cynthia Osterman and Lincoln Fest.
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