MOSCOW/BEIJING: China’s top diplomat is due to visit Moscow shortly, and may possibly even meet President Vladimir Putin, as the United States says it is concerned Beijing may be considering supplying weapons to Russia.
Chinese weapons supplies to Russia would risk a potential escalation of the Ukraine war into a confrontation between Russia and China on the one side and Ukraine and the US-led NATO military alliance on the other.
After sparring over the shooting down of balloons over the United States, China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, accused the United States of violating international norms with “hysterical” behaviour.
Wang suggested European countries “think calmly” about how to end the war and said Beijing would put forward “China’s position on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the planned visit by Wang to Moscow but gave no date for the trip.
“We don’t rule out a meeting between Mr Wang and the president (Putin),” Peskov told reporters. “The agenda is clear and very extensive, so there is lots to talk about.”
A diplomatic source who spoke on condition of anonymity told Reuters earlier that Wang was expected in Moscow shortly and would discuss Chinese ideas for a political settlement of the Ukraine conflict as well as bilateral issues.
Wang, speaking in Budapest on Monday, said China was ready to work with Hungary and other countries to bring hostilities to an end.
Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine has triggered one of the deadliest European conflicts since World War Two and the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has stood by Putin, resisting Western pressure to isolate Russia. Chinese-Russian trade has soared since the invasion of Ukraine, and Russia has sold Asian powers including China greater volumes of oil.
Putin and Xi
The United States casts China and Russia as the two biggest nation-state threats to its security. China is viewed by Washington as the gravest long-term “strategic competitor” and Russia as an “acute threat”.
Putin and Xi share a broad world view which sees the West as decadent and in decline just as China challenges US supremacy in everything from technology to espionage and military power.
China has refrained from condemning Moscow’s operation against Ukraine or calling it an “invasion” in line with the Kremlin, which describes the war as a “special military operation” designed to protect Russia’s own security.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Wang Yi on Saturday of consequences should China provide material support to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
China hit back at the United States on Monday.
“The United States is in no position to make demands of China,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a regular daily briefing in Beijing, when asked about Blinken’s comments.
“China’s comprehensive collaborative partnership with Russia is based on non-alignment, non-confrontation and non-targeting of third parties, and is a matter within the sovereignty of two independent countries,” Wang Wenbin said.
When Putin and Xi met face to face just before the Ukraine conflict began, the two leaders sealed a “no limits” partnership between China and Russia that triggered anxiety in the West.
“We will never accept the US pointing fingers at Sino-Russian relations or even coercing us,” Wang Wenbin told the briefing in Beijing.