China rejects US claim it may arm Russia
Antony Blinken speaks during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State on January 19, 2021 Alex Edelman POOL/AFP/File

Beijing strongly denied on Monday US claims that China was considering arming Russia in its war against Ukraine, as it reiterated a call for dialogue to end the conflict.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Beijing was now "considering providing lethal support" to Moscow ranging "from ammunition to the weapons themselves".

"It is the United States and not China that is endlessly shipping weapons to the battlefield," China's foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Monday, when asked about the US claims.

"We urge the United States to earnestly reflect on its own actions, and do more to alleviate the situation, promote peace and dialogue, and stop shifting blame and spreading false information," Wang told a regular briefing.

Moscow's offensive in Ukraine is a sensitive issue for Beijing, which has sought to position itself as neutral while offering diplomatic backing to its strategic ally Russia.

"It is clear to the international community who is calling for dialogue and fighting for peace, and who is adding fuel to the fire and encouraging opposition," Wang added, reiterating a call for support for a Chinese proposal to end the war.

On Saturday, China said it would publish this week a proposal to find a "political solution" to the Ukraine crisis, with Beijing's top diplomat telling a conference the country is "on the side of dialogue".

Wang Yi told the Munich Security Conference that China was against attacks on nuclear power plants, opposed the use of biochemical weapons and was willing to work with "all parties".

Later on Monday, the EU's foreign policy chief warned China against providing weapons to Russia for its war on Ukraine.

Josep Borrell said he told Wang Yi that "for us, it would be a red line in our relationship. He told me that they are not going to do it, that they don't plan to do it. But we will remain vigilant".

Alleged spy balloon

Blinken's accusations came as relations between China and the United States were further strained after Washington shot down what it said was a Chinese spy balloon earlier this month.

The United States has repeatedly warned China against providing support to Russia for its war in Ukraine, which is nearing its one-year anniversary.

Appearing on Sunday on ABC, Blinken said that US President Joe Biden had warned his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, as long ago as last March against sending weapons to Russia.

Since that time, "China has been careful not to cross that line, including by holding off on selling lethal weapons systems for use on the battlefield", according to a US administration source familiar with the issue.

In Munich, Blinken and Wang Yi clashed over Washington's shooting down of a Chinese balloon over its airspace.

During their encounter, Blinken "directly spoke to the unacceptable violation of US sovereignty and international law by (China's) high-altitude surveillance balloon in US territorial airspace", State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

He also warned Wang "about the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia or assistance with systemic sanctions evasion", Price said.

In turn, Wang Yi told Blinken that their countries' relations had been damaged by how Washington reacted to the balloon, which China has repeatedly described as a civilian craft for weather research that veered off course.

Wang Yi "made clear China's solemn position on the so-called airship incident", and "urged the US side to change course, acknowledge and repair the damage that its excessive use of force caused to China-US relations", state news agency Xinhua reported.

Speaking on Saturday at the gathering of world leaders in Munich, the diplomat had condemned the US reaction to the balloon as "hysterical and absurd".


© 2023 AFP