WASHINGTON: Top advisers to Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping met in Rome on Monday to discuss China’s support for Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, even as the Kremlin denied reports that it had requested Chinese military equipment to use in the war.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan and senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi spoke, with the Biden administration increasingly concerned that China is using the Ukraine war to advance Beijing’s long-term interest in its competition with the United States.
Sullivan was seeking clarity on Beijing’s posture and was warning the Chinese anew that assistance for Russia including helping it avert sanctions imposed by the US and Western allies would be costly for them.
“I’m not going to sit here publicly and brandish threats,” Sullivan said as he made the rounds of Sunday news shows ahead of his trip to Rome. “But what I will tell you is we are communicating directly and privately to Beijing that there absolutely will be consequences if China helps Russia backfill its losses from the sanctions.”
Sullivan and Yang met in Rome amid reports that Russia has asked China for military equipment to use in its invasion of Ukraine.
In advance of the talks, Sullivan bluntly warned China to avoid helping Russia evade punishment from global sanctions that have hammered the Russian economy. We will not allow that to go forward, he said. Russia, however, on Monday denied it needed China’s help.
No, Russia has its own potential to continue the operation, which, as we have said, is unfolding in accordance with the plan and will be completed on time and in full, said Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman.
The prospect of China offering Russia financial help is one of several concerns for President Joe Biden. A US official said that in recent days, Russia had requested support from China, including military equipment, to press forward in its ongoing war with Ukraine.
The Russians have seen significant losses of tanks, helicopters and other materiel since the start of the war more than two weeks ago. Ukraine, while overmatched by Russian forces, is well-equipped with anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.
The Biden administration is also accusing China of spreading Russian disinformation that could be a pretext for Putin’s forces to attack Ukraine with chemical or biological weapons.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put China in a delicate spot with two of its biggest trading partners: the US and European Union. China needs access to those markets, yet it also has shown support for Moscow, joining with Russia in declaring a friendship with no limits.
Without giving details, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that the Ukraine situation will definitely be a hot topic” at the meeting, which had been scheduled before Russia invaded its neighbour.
Asked at a daily briefing about the reported Russian request for assistance, Zhao responded: “The US has been spreading disinformation targeting China recently over the Ukraine issue. It is malicious.”
What is pressing now is that all parties should exercise restraint and strive to cool down the situation, rather than fueling the tension,” Zhao told reporters. We should promote diplomatic settlements instead of further escalating the situation.” The White House said the talks will focus on the direct impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on regional and global security.