A US official says Russia has asked China for military equipment to use in its invasion of Ukraine.
The request comes amid tensions about the ongoing war ahead of a Monday meeting in Rome between top aides for the US and Chinese governments.
In advance of the talks, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan bluntly warned China to avoid helping Russia evade punishment from global sanctions that have hammered the Russian economy. “We will not allow that to go forward,” he said.
The prospect of China offering Russia financial help is one of several concerns for President Joe Biden. A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said that in recent days, Russia had requested support from China, including military equipment, to press forward in 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 is also accusing China of spreading Russian disinformation that could be a pretext for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces to attack Ukraine with chemical or biological weapons.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put China in a delicate spot with two of its biggest trading partners: the US and European Union. China needs access to those markets, yet it also has shown support for Moscow, joining with Russia in declaring a friendship with “no limits”.
In his talks with senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi, Mr Sullivan will indeed be looking for limits in what Beijing will do for Moscow.
“I’m not going to sit here publicly and brandish threats,” he told CNN in a round of Sunday news show interviews.
“But what I will tell you is we are communicating directly and privately to Beijing that there absolutely will be consequences” if China helps Russia “backfill” its losses from the sanctions.
“We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country anywhere in the world,” he said.
In brief comments on the talks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian did not mention Ukraine, saying that the “key issue of this meeting is to implement the important consensus reached by the Chinese and US heads of state in their virtual summit in November last year”.
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 was running chemical and biological weapons labs with US support.
They say China is effectively providing cover if Russia moves ahead with a biological or chemical weapons attack on Ukrainians.
When Russia starts accusing other countries of preparing to launch biological or chemical attacks, Mr Sullivan told NBC’s Meet the Press: “It’s a good tell that they may be on the cusp of doing it themselves.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, on ABC’s This Week, said: “We haven’t seen anything that indicates some sort of imminent chemical or biological attack right now, but we’re watching this very, very closely.”
There is growing concern inside the White House that China is aligning itself with Russia on the Ukraine war in hopes it will advance Beijing’s “vision of the world order” in the long term, according to a person familiar with administration thinking.
The person was not authorised to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The international community has assessed that Russia used chemical weapons in attempts to assassinate Mr Putin’s detractors 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 in a decade-long civil war.
China has been one of few countries to avoid criticising the Russians for its invasion of Ukraine. China’s leader Xi Jinping hosted Mr Putin for the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, just three weeks before Russia invaded on February 24.
During Mr Putin’s visit, the two leaders issued a 5,000-word statement declaring limitless friendship.
The Chinese abstained on UN votes censuring Russia and has criticised economic sanctions against Moscow. It has expressed its support for peace talks and offered its services as a mediator, despite questions about its neutrality and scant experience mediating international conflict.
Published: by Radio NewsHub