The United States has warned China against coming to Russia’s aid in Ukraine, saying there will be “consequences” if Beijing provides support to Moscow’s war effort.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan made Washington’s concerns “clear” to the director of China’s Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission Yang Jiechi during a meeting in Rome earlier in the day, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters on Monday.
“We are watching very closely the extent to which the PRC [the People’s Republic of China] or any country in the world provides support – material, economic, financial, rhetorical, otherwise – to this war of choice that President [Vladimir] Putin is waging” against Ukraine, Price said.
“And we have been very clear – both privately with Beijing, publicly with Beijing – that there would be consequences for any such support.”
Russia launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine on February 24 after a months-long standoff that saw Moscow amass troops near the Ukrainian border as it demanded an end to NATO expansion into former Soviet republics.
The war, which prompted a swift sanctions campaign by the US and its allies against Russia, has pushed more than 2.8 million people to flee Ukraine, according to the United Nations, as Russian forces besiege and bombard Ukrainian towns and cities.
China has urged “restraint” in the conflict and expressed support for talks to end the war, but it has not denounced the invasion.
Late last month, China abstained from a UN Security Council proposal that aimed to condemn the Russian assault on Ukraine. The measure was vetoed by Russia.
The meeting between Sullivan and Yang came a day after several US media outlets reported, citing unidentified American officials, that Moscow was seeking military assistance from Beijing.
China appeared to dismiss those reports without mentioning them specifically. “The US has been spreading disinformation targeting China on the Ukraine issue, with malicious intentions,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Sunday.
China’s state-owned Xinhua news agency did not mention any discussions on the alleged Russian request for support in its coverage of the talks between Yang and Sullivan.
But it said Yang stressed that Beijing “resolutely opposes any words and deeds that spread false information” about its position on Ukraine.
Yang also told Sullivan that Beijing “does not want to see that the situation in Ukraine has come to this point”, according to Xinhua, and always “stands for respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries”.
He added that China believes “it is important to straighten out the historical context of the Ukraine issue” and called for talks to “set up a balanced, effective and sustainable European security framework based on the principle of indivisible security”.
In its statement describing the meeting in Rome, the White House said Sullivan and Yang had a “substantial discussion” on Ukraine.
“They also underscored the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between the United States and China,” the statement read.
A senior Biden administration official later described the meeting as an “intense seven-hour session”.
“We do have deep concerns about China’s alignment with Russia at this time,” the official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said. “And the national security adviser was direct about those concerns and the potential implications and consequences of certain actions.”