Face to face, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser warned a senior Chinese official on Monday of China’s support for Russia in the Ukrainian invasion, even as the Kremlin denied reports that he had asked for Chinese military equipment for use in war.
US adviser Jake Sullivan and senior China foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi met in Rome amid growing concern from the Biden administration that China is using the war in Ukraine to advance the long-term interest. term of Beijing in its competition with the United States.
Sullivan sought to clarify Beijing’s position and again warned the Chinese that aid to Russia – including helping it avoid sanctions imposed by the United States and Western allies – would cost them dearly.
“The National Security Adviser and our delegation expressed directly and very clearly our concerns about the PRC’s support for Russia following the invasion, and the implications such support would have for PRC relations. not just with us, but for its relationships around the world,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said, using the initials of the People’s Republic of China.
More than 2.8 million people have evacuated Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion and 1.7 million have taken refuge in Poland, Ukraine’s western neighbour. Poland is trying to disperse large crowds by adding more westbound train lines in Europe, such as to Germany and the Czech Republic. But as Jay Gray shows you from the Polish-Ukrainian border region, many people want to stay close to Ukraine in case they need to return, or catch up with relatives who haven’t crossed over yet.
Ahead of the talks, Sullivan bluntly warned China to avoid helping Russia evade global sanctions that have hit the Russian economy. “We will not allow this to continue,” he said. Russia, however, on Monday denied needing help from China.
“No, Russia has its own potential to continue the operation which, as we said, is going according to plan and will be completed on time and in full,” said Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, White House officials are discussing the possibility of Biden traveling to Europe to meet with allies for in-person talks on the Ukraine crisis, according to three US officials. The officials, who were not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the trip was not finalized. One possibility is a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels on March 24 with other potential stops in Europe, according to one of the officials.
The prospect of China offering financial aid to Russia is one of Biden’s many concerns. A US official said that in recent days Russia had requested support from China, including military hardware, to advance its ongoing war with Ukraine. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, did not provide details on the scope of the request.
The Russians have suffered major losses of tanks, helicopters and other equipment since the start of the war more than two weeks ago. Ukraine, although overwhelmed by Russian forces, is well equipped with anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.
The Russian military did not expect the resistance it would face from Ukrainian fighters, former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Joel Rubin said. “The Ukrainian people are incredibly brave and strong, and they look at a very large army and put it in their place,” Rubin said.
The Biden administration also accuses China of spreading Russian disinformation that could serve as a pretext for Putin’s forces to attack Ukraine with chemical or biological weapons.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has placed China in a delicate situation with two of its main trading partners: the United States and the European Union. China needs access to these markets, but it has also shown its support for Moscow, joining Russia in declaring a “boundless” friendship.
Asked at a daily press briefing about Russia’s request for help, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: “The United States has recently spread disinformation targeting China on the Ukrainian question. It’s malicious.”
“What is urgent now is for all parties to show restraint and work to calm the situation, rather than fueling tension,” Zhao told reporters. “We should promote diplomatic settlements instead of further aggravating the situation.”
The White House said Monday’s Sullivan-Yang talks focused on the direct impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine and on regional and global security.
Biden administration officials say Beijing is spreading false Russian claims that Ukraine ran chemical and biological weapons labs with US backing. They say China is effectively providing cover if Russia pursues a biological or chemical weapons attack on the Ukrainians.
When Russia starts accusing other countries of preparing to launch biological or chemical attacks, Sullivan said on Sunday, “it’s a good indication that they might be on the verge of doing it themselves.” .
Russia attacked a military base in Ukraine near the Polish border, killing at least 35 people and injuring more than 100, according to Ukrainian officials.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on ABC’s “This Week” said “we haven’t seen anything to indicate any kind of imminent chemical or biological attack at this time, but we’re monitoring this very, very closely. “.
The stark US accusations of Russian disinformation and Chinese complicity came after Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova alleged without any evidence that the US was funding Ukrainian weapons labs chemical and biological.
The Russian claim was echoed by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao, who claimed there were 26 bio-laboratories and related facilities in which “the US Department of Defense has absolute control”. . The UN said it had not received any information supporting such accusations.
White House increasingly fears China is siding with Russia in war on Ukraine in hopes of advancing Beijing’s ‘world order vision’ in the long run, person says familiar with the administration’s point of view, which spoke conditionally. anonymity because the official was not authorized to comment publicly.
The international community believed that Russia used chemical weapons in an attempt to assassinate Putin critics such as Alexei Navalny and former spy Sergei Skripal. Russia also supports the Assad government in Syria, which has used chemical weapons against its people during a decade of civil war.
China was one of the few countries to avoid criticizing the Russians for its invasion of Ukraine. Chinese leader Xi Jinping hosted Putin for the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, just three weeks before the Russian invasion on February 24. During Putin’s visit, the two leaders issued a 5,000-word statement declaring unlimited “friendship”.
Russian forces continued their assault on the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on Saturday, shelling a mosque that housed more than 80 people, including children, according to the Ukrainian government. Fighting also raged on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, kyiv.
The Chinese abstained in UN votes censuring Russia and criticized economic sanctions against Moscow.
But questions remain about how far Beijing will go to alienate the West and put its own economy at risk.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said on Monday he had asked his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to use Beijing’s influence over Moscow to end the war.
“We are at a historic moment that demands responsibility and vision from all world leaders,” Albares told Wang in a phone conversation on Monday, according to a statement from the Spanish ministry.
This is a live update. Click here for comprehensive coverage of the crisis in Ukraine.