Biden seeks to assess Chinese Xi’s stance on war with Russia | world news

By AAMER MADHANI, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping are set to speak Friday as the White House warns Beijing that providing military or economic assistance to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will cause serious harm. consequences from Washington and beyond.

Planning for the call has been underway since Biden and Xi held a virtual summit in November, but differences between Washington and Beijing over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s continuation of his three-week war on Ukraine should be the center of the call.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki says Biden will ask Xi about Beijing’s ‘rhetorical support’ of Putin and ‘lack of denunciation’ of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine .

“This is an opportunity to assess President Xi’s position,” Psaki said.

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On Friday, China again sought to highlight its calls for negotiations and humanitarian aid donations, while accusing the United States of provoking Russia and fueling the conflict by shipping weapons to Ukraine.

“China has called for all efforts to avoid civilian casualties at all times,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily press briefing. “What do Ukrainian civilians need most? food and sleeping bags or machine guns and artillery? It’s easy to answer. »

The long strained US-China relationship has only grown more strained since the start of Biden’s presidency. Biden has repeatedly criticized China for its military provocations against Taiwan, its human rights abuses against ethnic minorities and its efforts to stifle democracy advocates in Hong Kong.

But the relationship may have hit a new low with the Russian invasion.

In the days following Putin’s deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine, Xi’s government tried to distance itself from the Russian offensive but avoided criticizing Moscow. At other times, Beijing’s actions have been provocative and have included amplifying unverified Russian claims that Ukraine was running chemical and biological weapons labs with US backing.

Earlier this week, the United States informed its Asian and European allies that American intelligence had determined that China had signaled to Russia that it would be willing to provide both military support for the campaign in Ukraine. and financial support to help avoid the impact of the severe sanctions imposed. by the West.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated Thursday that the Biden administration remains concerned that China is considering supplying military hardware to Russia. He said Biden would make it clear to Xi “that China will take responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia’s aggression, and we will not hesitate to impose costs.”

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi met in Rome earlier this week for an intense seven-hour conversation about the Russian invasion and… other questions.

Ahead of the Rome talks, Sullivan said the United States would not respect China or any other country helping Russia circumvent economic sanctions imposed by the United States and other allies since the Feb. 24 invasion.

Sullivan also said the administration determined that China knew Putin was “planning something” before the invasion of Ukraine, but the Chinese government “may not have understood the full extent” of what Putin had in mind.

Xi and Putin met in early February, weeks before the invasion, with the Russian leader traveling to Beijing for the start of the Winter Olympics. During Putin’s visit, the two leaders issued a 5,000-word statement declaring unlimited “friendship”.

Leaders in Beijing would like to support Russia, but also recognize how badly Russian military action is going as an outclassed Ukrainian military has put up stiff resistance, according to a Western official familiar with current intelligence assessments.

The official, who was not authorized to comment and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Beijing was assessing the potential “reputational boost” of being associated with the Russian camp. The Chinese response to Russia’s request for help “is being formulated”, the official added.

Although seen as siding with Russia, China has also reached out to Ukraine, with its ambassador to the country saying on Monday: “China is a friendly country of the Ukrainian people. As Ambassador, I can say responsibly that China will always be a good force for Ukraine, both economically and politically.

“We have seen how great the unity of the Ukrainian people is, and that signifies their strength,” Fan Xianrong told regional authorities in the western city of Lviv, where the Chinese embassy has moved.

Despite the strains in US-China relations, Biden and Xi have sought to keep the dialogue between leaders open and have become familiar with each other through their political ascendancy.

Biden and Xi first met during trips through the United States and China when they were both vice presidents, interactions that the two leaders say left a lasting impression. Friday’s phone call will be the fourth exchange between the two leaders since Biden became president.

Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.

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