According to senior American officials, US President Joe Biden will warn Chinese leader Xi Jinping in a phone call on Friday that Washington could retaliate against Beijing if it backs Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
The talks, which will take place Friday morning ET, could mark a pivotal moment in diplomacy surrounding the Russian invasion and comes as US officials grow increasingly concerned about China’s possible readiness to do so help Moscow in conflict.
“This is an opportunity for President Biden to assess where President Xi stands,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday.
Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, added that Biden will “make it clear that China will bear responsibility for any action it takes in support of Russian aggression, and we will not hesitate to impose costs.”
The Financial Times reported this week that Russia had requested several categories of weapons, including drones, from Beijing. Blinken confirmed that Washington is concerned that China “is considering directly assisting Russia with military equipment” to be deployed in Ukraine.
While Beijing publicly claims to take a neutral stance on the conflict, the US is concerned that the country is drawing closer to Russia’s support.
China’s foreign ministry said an official met with Andrey Denisov, Russia’s ambassador to Beijing, on Thursday to discuss “counterterrorism and security cooperation.”
China has also avoided calling the war an “invasion,” referring instead to the “problem” or “crisis” in Ukraine.
“The lack of an accusation from China about what Russia is doing . . . flies in the face. . . of everything China stands for, including the core principles of the UN Charter, including the core principles of respect for the sovereignty of nations,” Psaki said.
“The fact that China has not denounced what Russia is doing speaks volumes in and of itself,” she added.
The Biden administration is also keeping a close eye on whether China is helping Russia circumvent it sanctions the West imposed on Putin and his regime.
At a meeting in Rome on Monday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi that Beijing faces consequences for Russia’s bailout.
Xi issued a statement with Putin last month in which leaders described their growing partnership as “without borders.”
China has called for talks between Kyiv and Moscow. Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, signaled in early March that Beijing could intervene role as a mediator after meeting Wang Yi, his Chinese counterpart.
But Beijing has defied sanctions and has repeatedly accused NATO and the EU of pressuring Putin before the war. Chinese diplomats and state media have also echoed Russia’s disinformation reports that the US was using Ukraine to research dangerous biological weapons.
Zhao Lijian, spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, told reporters Thursday the country’s “clear” goal is to work towards de-escalation and end the conflict as soon as possible.
“We hope that the US and NATO, the culprits of the crisis, can reflect on their role in the Ukraine crisis,” Zhao said.
The call is only the fourth interaction between Biden and Xi, and follows their virtual meeting in November, when the US president told the Chinese leader the two have a responsibility to ensure the competition does not “clash.”
The White House concluded last fall that it was important for Biden to speak directly with Xi, amid concerns that messages to his top officials were not properly relayed to the Chinese president.
Additional reporting by William Langley in Hong Kong
https://www.ft.com/content/0f774fdb-c000-4cbe-ba51-f6586269bb57 Joe Biden warns Xi Jinping of US retaliation if China supports Russia