As tension in Ukraine worsens, diplomatic contacts are multiplying on the margins. The White House National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, met this Monday in Rome with the highest representative of Chinese diplomacy, State Councilor Yang Jiechi. Later, the United States has warned its allies, according to the newspaper Financial Times, that Beijing is open to providing military aid to Moscow. The diplomatic cables with that alarming message, which have been sent by the State Department from Washington to governments in Europe and Asia, do not specify if that aid would have started or, if not, when it is scheduled to start. The meeting – held at the Astoria hotel, one of the most renowned in Rome – ended after seven in the afternoon, according to Italian public television Rai.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV has reported Yang’s meeting with Sullivan in Rome, but has not provided further details, to the point of not even specifying whether the meeting was over.
The meeting was held amid fears in NATO that Russian attacks, increasingly dangerously close to the border with Poland, could provoke an incident in allied territory. And after, according to US officials, Moscow has asked China to send military equipment – information that Beijing denied over the weekend, calling it “disinformation”. While Sullivan and Jiechi spoke in Rome, the Russian and Ukrainian delegations resumed their negotiations on Monday, so far without results. Both sides have agreed to continue talks on Tuesday.
This Monday the plans, still to be finalized, of the US president, Joe Biden, to travel to Europe next week, to meet in Brussels with the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, and with other European leaders, have also emerged. , according to the AP agency.
The Russian request and the apparently favorable response from China have set off alarm bells in the White House, three days after Biden warned at an event of his party in Philadelphia that a direct confrontation with Moscow would lead to “a third world war.” . The Chinese embassy in the US said on Sunday that it was not aware of any Russian request or positive Chinese response to Moscow. Russia also denied Monday that it had made any requests to China.
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The governments of Russia and China said in separate statements issued on Sunday that the two top officials planned to address “regional” issues and would try to keep their lines of communication open. The White House Security Council specified that both will address “the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on global and regional security.” The version of the Chinese Foreign Ministry does not mention Ukraine, and only refers to “international and global issues of interest to both”.
China has refused to qualify what is happening in Ukraine as a “war” or “invasion”. Instead, he refers to the Russian attacks with the terms “situation”, “crisis” or “conflict”. Its media, controlled by the government or rigidly censored, follow the official line when it comes to reporting. Diplomats and official media have echoed Russian accusations without evidence denouncing the existence of almost thirty US chemical weapons laboratories in Ukraine.
Sullivan has come to Rome with the declared intention of warning Yang about any possibility of helping Russia in the conflict, either by throwing it a lifeline to evade or alleviate the sanctions that the West has imposed on Moscow or by harming Ukraine. “We are communicating privately and directly to Beijing that there will be consequences in response to attempts at large-scale evasion of sanctions, or support for Russia to mitigate them,” the White House adviser said in an interview broadcast this Sunday on the network. CNN television. “We will not allow that to happen and Russia will have a lifeline against those sanctions by any country, anywhere in the world.”
Sullivan did not make explicit reference to the supply of military equipment, but senior US defense officials have assured that Moscow has requested such shipments from Beijing, without detailing the exact type of material. In Beijing, the Foreign Ministry has described these accusations as “disinformation coming from the United States.” In Washington, Chinese embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu denied knowing of any suggestion that Beijing intends to assist its strategic partner. “China is deeply concerned and pained by the situation in Ukraine,” he said. “We hope that the situation calms down and peace returns as soon as possible,” he added.
China — the world’s second largest defense investor after the United States and with military spending of some 200,000 million euros, which will grow by 7.1% this year — has traditionally bought weapons from Russia, the third country in the world by military budget. But Beijing, which is modernizing its Army at a forced march, has equipment that could be useful to Moscow in this war, from drones to ammunition.
Since the beginning of the war, China has opted for a position of neutrality biased in favor of Russia. Moscow is the strategic partner with whom she reckons she will be able to stand up to the United States and perceived attempts by Washington to limit Chinese influence on the global stage. This support was made clear at the meeting held in Beijing on February 4 between the presidents of China, Xi Jinping, and Russia, Vladimir Putin. On that date, both proclaimed a “limitless” relationship. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated this at a press conference a week ago: cooperation between the two capitals is “solid as a rock” and will continue to deepen “no matter how dark the circumstances are,” he said. he.
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