CHINESE leader Xi Jinping assured U.S. President Joe Biden that his country didn’t want war in Ukraine during a highly anticipated, two-hour videoconference on Friday, their first conversation since Russia’s invasion last month.
Xi told Biden that the invasion “isn’t what we want to see,” according a report from state-run Xinhua.
The White House has not yet issued a statement on the call.
The videoconference began shortly after 9 a.m. Washington time and ended just before 11 a.m. It was an opportunity for Biden to assess where Beijing stands on the war and how Xi views his country’s role, after some Chinese officials issued conflicting statements on their support for Ukraine and Russia.
Xi also told Biden that the relationship between China and the U.S. “shouldn’t resort to arms” and that “conflicts and confrontations are not in anyone’s interest,” according to state broadcaster CCTV.
“We should not only steer China-U.S. relations forward on the right track, but should also shoulder our international responsibilities,” the Chinese leader added, according to Xinhua.
Biden held the video conference in private from the White House’s secure Situation Room.
U.S. officials have warned China of serious consequences should they decide to provide Russia with any military or financial assistance for the invasion.
“We are ready to impose costs on China,” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told MSNBC ahead of the call on Friday, urging Beijing to instead stand with Ukraine.
China should “understand that their future is with the United States, with Europe, with other developed and developing countries around the world,” she said. “Their future is not to stand with Vladimir Putin.”
Earlier, the Chinese dismissed the suggestion that they have chosen the wrong side in the war.
“The claim that #China is on the wrong side of history is overbearing. It is the #US that is on the wrong side of history,” Hua Chunying, China’s assistant foreign minister said in a tweet.
The White House has called out Beijing for efforts to portray itself as a neutral arbiter, while U.S. intelligence suggests China is open to supplying Russia with military and financial aid — a request the U.S. has said was made by Moscow shortly after the invasion.
It’s not clear if China has decided to provide material support for Russia. China and Russia have denied such asks were made.
The Ukraine crisis has increased the pressure on a relationship already strained by everything from trade disputes to U.S. support for the democratically elected government on Taiwan. Chinese officials have repeatedly accused the U.S. side in recent weeks of failing to live up to the consensus reached during Biden’s video summit with Xi in November.
While China has refrained from criticizing the invasion and voiced support for Russia’s “legitimate strategic concerns,” it has also urged peace talks and the protection of civilians. China’s ambassador to the U.S., Qin Gang, has rejected speculation that Xi had advance knowledge of Putin’s plan as “disinformation,” saying China would’ve tried to stop the conflict.
The call is also part of the U.S.’s ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication between the two countries even as tensions run high.
It follows a six-hour meeting earlier this week in Rome between Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, which the White House described as an intense back-and-forth. (Bloomberg)
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