US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold their first live talks since November later Friday, amid growing American concern over Beijing’s relations with Russia and its stance on the increasingly brutal war in Ukraine.
Biden and Xi will speak by telephone at 13:00 GMT on Friday, the White House said, amid warnings from Washington that China may be considering providing military support to Russia.
In a briefing earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Biden would use the call to “make it clear that China will take responsibility for any action it takes to support Russia’s aggression,” and there would be “costs” to such. actions.
China “has a particular responsibility to use its influence with President Putin and to defend the international rules and principles it claims to support,” he said.
While Western countries and allies have moved to impose harsh sanctions on Russia over the invasion and condemned its aggression, China, which has a close relationship with Kiev as well as with Moscow, has not.
On the diplomatic front, it has emphasized Ukraine’s sovereignty, while vigorously avoiding any direct criticism of Russia and calling for peace talks.
It has also insisted that Russia has legitimate security issues that need to be addressed, and it reiterated Russian claims that the United States has been secretly working on biological weapons in Ukraine. The accusations have been rejected of the United States and the United Nations.
“Since the beginning of the invasion, China has been trying, I think, very awkwardly, to try to play a neutral role,” said Katrina Yu, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Beijing. “It has refused to take sides and says it has good relations with both Kiev and Moscow. It says it is a neutral player and just wants to encourage dialogue. But at the same time, Beijing has made it very clear that it has to intends to maintain its friendship with Russia, which has been called ‘borderless’ [and] ‘rock solid’. “
At a regular briefing by China’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday, spokesman Zhao Lijian insisted that China’s stance was consistent and rounded off on those who suggested disagreements.
“These are the countries that are fooling themselves into believing that they can rule the world after winning the Cold War, those who continue to drive NATO’s eastward expansion five times without regard to other countries’ security concerns, and those , waging wars across the globe.While accusing other countries of being belligerent, it should really feel “uncomfortable,” he told reporters.
China and Russia have grown closer to each other in recent years, although Beijing has never recognized Russia’s claim to Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
The two countries conducted joint military and naval exercises at the end of last year and issued a lengthy 5,000-word statement on February 4 against the expansion of NATOcalls the security block one remnants of the Cold War.
Putin, who appears to have developed a close bond with Xi, was in Beijing shortly before the invasion for the opening of the Winter Olympics. The two men have met each other more than 30 times since 2013.
The call between Xi and Biden comes after a marathon meeting Monday between Yang Jiechi, director of China’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission, and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in Rome.
China said these talks were “sincere, in-depth and constructive” and included discussion of Taiwan.
Yu says the autonomous island that China claims to be its own would probably also be on the agenda for the Biden-Xi call.
Beijing was furious after former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Taiwan earlier this month and said the United States should recognize it as a “”free and sovereign“nation.
The United States, which maintains formal diplomatic relations with Beijing, has a policy of “strategic ambiguity”In Taiwan.
During the 1979s Taiwan Relations Act, the US Government has a mandate to “maintain and promote comprehensive, close and friendly commercial, cultural and other relations between the people of the United States and the people of Taiwan”.
In recent years, amid concerns over the Beijing threat, it has also risen arms sales to the island.