US and China discuss Russia as Biden and Xi hold call | Political news

US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, began their first direct talks since November, amid growing US concerns about Beijing’s relationship with Russia and its stance on the war. increasingly brutal in Ukraine.

Biden and Xi began speaking at 1:00 p.m. GMT on Friday, the White House said, amid warnings from Washington that China may consider providing military support to Russia.

In an earlier briefing, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Biden would use the call to “make it clear that China will take responsibility for any action it takes in support of Russia’s aggression.” , and that such actions would have “costs”.

China “has a particular responsibility to use its influence with President Putin and uphold the international rules and principles it claims to uphold,” he said.

While Western countries and their allies moved to impose harsh sanctions on Russia for the invasion and condemned its aggression, China, which has close ties with kyiv as well as Moscow, did not. made.

Walking a diplomatic tightrope, he stressed Ukraine’s sovereignty while vigorously avoiding direct criticism of Russia and calling for peace negotiations.

He also insisted that Russia had legitimate security issues that needed to be addressed and echoed Russian claims that the United States was secretly working on biological weapons in Ukraine. The allegations were dismissed by the United States and the United Nations.

“Since the start of the invasion, China has tried, I think, very clumsily, to play a neutral role,” said Katrina Yu, Al Jazeera correspondent in Beijing. “He refused to take sides, saying he had good relations with Kyiv and Moscow. He says he is a neutral actor and he just wants to encourage dialogue. But at the same time, Beijing has made it very clear that it intends to preserve its friendship with Russia, which it has described as “unlimited”. [and] ‘solid as a rock’.”

At a regular Chinese Foreign Ministry briefing on Thursday, spokesman Zhao Lijian insisted that China’s position was consistent and rounded on those who suggested incongruity.

“It’s those countries that delude themselves into thinking they can rule the world after winning the Cold War, those that continue to drive NATO’s five-fold eastward expansion in defiance of the concerns of security of other countries and those who wage wars around the world. while accusing other countries of being belligerent, it really should be ‘uncomfortable’,” he told reporters.

Xi and Putin have met more than 30 times since 2013, most recently in Beijing last month where Putin was a guest at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. [File: Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Sputnik and EPA]

China and Russia have grown increasingly closer in recent years, although Beijing has never acknowledged Russia’s claim to Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

The two countries conducted joint military and naval exercises late last year and issued a 5,000-word long statement on February 4 against NATO expansion, calling the security bloc a relic of the cold War.

Putin, who appears to have developed a close bond with Xi, was in Beijing shortly before the invasion for the opening of the Winter Olympics. The two have met more than 30 times since 2013.

“Rebuke China”

Samir Puri, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the call between Biden and Xi was a “really important moment,” with the United States engaging in a sort of “diplomatic offensive to try to call, and even to shame”. , China for its somewhat neutral stance” on Ukraine.

“In particular, intelligence released by the United States on Russia’s request for Chinese military assistance will almost certainly be a feature of how Biden approaches this call – likely to berate Xi Jinping for even entertaining this and berate China. for not turning his back on her. over Russia during the Russian invasion.

Puri, however, stressed that “China is highly unlikely to walk away” from its ambitious goal of strengthening its already deep economic ties with Russia.

“Because China openly trades with Russia – it buys its crude oil, gas and so on – it indirectly supports Russia and I think it’s fanciful to think that China would turn its back on its economic relationship with Russia. Russia, even if it deviates back” from providing fresh military support and equipment.

The call between Xi and Biden also comes after a marathon meeting on Monday between Yang Jiechi, director of China’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission, and US NSA Jake Sullivan in Rome.

China said the talks were “frank, thorough and constructive” and included a discussion on Taiwan.

Yu says the self-governing island, which China claims as its own, was also likely to be on the agenda for the Biden-Xi appeal.

Beijing was furious after former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Taiwan earlier this month and said the United States should recognize it as a “free and sovereign” nation.

The United States, which maintains formal diplomatic relations with Beijing, has a policy of “strategic ambiguity” towards Taiwan.

Under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the U.S. government has a mandate to “preserve and promote wide, close, and friendly commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and the people of Taiwan.”

In recent years, amid concerns over the threat posed by Beijing, it has also stepped up arms sales to the island.

Comments are closed.