WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. official said Russia has asked China for military hardware to use in its invasion of Ukraine, a request that heightened tensions over the ongoing war ahead of a Monday meeting in Rome between the main collaborators of the American and Chinese governments.
Ahead of the talks, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan bluntly warned China to avoid helping Russia evade global sanctions that have hit the Russian economy. “We will not allow this to continue,” he said.
The prospect of China offering financial aid to Russia is one of President Joe Biden’s many concerns. A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues, said that in recent days Russia had requested support from China, including military hardware, to advance its ongoing war with Ukraine. The official did not provide details on the scope of the request. The request was first reported by the Financial Times and the Washington Post.
The Biden administration also accuses China of spreading Russian disinformation that could be used as a pretext for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces to attack Ukraine with chemical or biological weapons.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has placed China in a delicate situation with two of its main trading partners: the United States and the European Union. China needs access to these markets, but it has also shown its support for Moscow, joining Russia in declaring a “boundless” friendship.
In his talks with senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi, Sullivan will indeed be looking for limits to what Beijing will do for Moscow.
“I’m not going to sit here publicly and make threats,” he told CNN in a series of interviews that aired on Sunday. “But what I will tell you is that we are communicating directly and privately to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences” if China helps Russia “compensate” for its sanctions losses.
“We will not allow this to continue and for there to be a lifeline for Russia from these economic sanctions from any country in the world,” he said.
In brief comments on the talks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian did not mention Ukraine, saying “the key issue of this meeting is to implement the important consensus reached by the heads of state of China and the United States during their virtual summit in November last year.” .”
“They will exchange views on China-US relations and international and regional issues of common concern,” Zhao said in comments posted on the ministry’s website late Sunday.
The White House said the talks will focus on the direct impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on regional and global security.
Biden administration officials say Beijing is spreading false Russian claims that Ukraine ran chemical and biological weapons labs with US backing. They say China is effectively providing cover if Russia pursues a biological or chemical weapons attack on the Ukrainians.
When Russia begins to accuse other countries of preparing to launch biological or chemical attacks, Sullivan told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “it’s a good indication that they might be on the verge of to do it themselves”.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on ABC’s “This Week” said “we haven’t seen anything to indicate any kind of imminent chemical or biological attack at this time, but we’re monitoring this very, very closely. “.
The stark US accusations of Russian disinformation and Chinese complicity came after Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova alleged without any evidence that the US was funding Ukrainian weapons labs chemical and biological.
The Russian claim was echoed by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, who claimed there were 26 bio-laboratories and related facilities in which “the US Department of Defense has absolute control “. The UN said it had not received any information supporting such accusations.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the claims “absurd”.
White House increasingly fears China is siding with Russia in war on Ukraine in hopes of advancing Beijing’s ‘world order vision’ in the long run, person says familiar with the thinking of the administration. The person was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Sullivan told “Face the Nation” on CBS that Russian rhetoric on chemical and biological warfare is “an indicator that in fact the Russians are preparing to do this and trying to lay the blame elsewhere and no one should fall for it.” the trap”.
The international community believed that Russia used chemical weapons in an attempt to assassinate Putin critics such as Alexei Navalny and former spy Sergei Skripal. Russia also supports the Assad government in Syria, which has used chemical weapons against its people during a decade of civil war.
China was one of the few countries to avoid criticizing the Russians for its invasion of Ukraine. Chinese leader Xi Jinping hosted Putin for the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, just three weeks before the Russian invasion on February 24.
During Putin’s visit, the two leaders issued a 5,000-word statement declaring friendship without limits.
The Chinese abstained in UN votes censuring Russia and criticized economic sanctions against Moscow. He expressed his support for the peace talks and offered his services as a mediator, despite questions about his neutrality and little experience in mediating international conflicts.
But questions remain about how far Beijing will go to alienate the West and put its own economy at risk. Sullivan said China and all countries are being warned that they cannot “fundamentally bail out Russia…give Russia a sanctions-bust” with impunity.
Chinese officials have said Washington should not be able to complain about Russia’s actions because the United States invaded Iraq under false pretenses. The United States claimed to have evidence that Saddam Hussein stockpiled weapons of mass destruction, although none was ever found.
On CNN, Sullivan said the administration believed China knew Putin was “planning something” before the invasion of Ukraine. But he said the Chinese government “may not have understood the full extent of it because it’s very possible that Putin lied to them the same way he lied to the Europeans and others”.
Sullivan and Yang last met for face-to-face talks in Switzerland, where Sullivan raised Biden administration concerns about China’s military provocations against Taiwan, human rights abuses against ethnic minorities and efforts to stifle democracy advocates in Hong Kong.
That meeting paved the way for a three-hour virtual meeting in November between Biden and Xi.
Sullivan is also due to meet Luigi Mattiolo, diplomatic adviser to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, while in Rome.
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