China’s foreign minister has told his Spanish counterpart his country does not want to be impacted by Western economic sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine last month, according to state media.
“China is not a party to the crisis, still less wants to be affected by the sanctions,” Wang Yi said, according to a readout of a phone call with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares that was published on Tuesday.
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He added that China rejects sanctions in principle and “has the right to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests”, calling the nearly three-week conflict in Ukraine “the product of the accumulation and intensification of European security contradictions over the years”.
For his part, Albares wrote on Twitter: “I have talked to my counterpart from China, Wang Yi about the consequences of the war in Ukraine and the means to end it.”
The discussion came as pressure grows on China to withdraw support from an increasingly isolated Russia, which has been hit by a series of tough sanctions imposed by the United States and Western allies.
The readout of the call did not mention recent reports citing US officials that Russia had asked China for military and economic help after the start of the war on February 24. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman had previously dismissed the reports as “malicious” US disinformation.
Separately, the ministry gave little detail on what Yang Jiechi, director of China’s central foreign affairs commission, had discussed with US President Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan during a marathon meeting on Monday in Italy’s capital, Rome.
The two had “frank, in-depth and constructive” talks, including on strained relations between Beijing and Washington over Taiwan, it said. Yang was cited as saying the US government was not sticking to its commitment to refrain from supporting Taiwan’s independence.
He also demanded Washington acknowledge how sensitive the Taiwan issue is and not go further down a “very dangerous road”.
China regards the self-governing democratic island republic as part of the People’s Republic and has threatened to take it back by force if it formally declares independence. The US is committed to Taiwan’s defence capability and supplies it with arms.
The White House, meanwhile, said Sullivan made clear during the “intense” seven-hour meeting that the Biden administration has deep concerns about China’s alignment with Russia at this time.
Before the talks in Rome, Sullivan had warned China to avoid helping Russia evade punishment from sanctions that have hammered the Russian economy. “We will not allow that to go forward,” he said.
Russia has denied it needs 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,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.