US President Joe Biden is pressuring his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on Russia’s support
US President Joe Biden is pressuring his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on Russia’s support

US President Joe Biden is pressuring his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on Russia’s support

Key figures for a war half a world away, US President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping spoke for nearly two hours as the White House sought to deter Beijing from providing military or economic assistance to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

China’s foreign ministry was the first to broadcast a reading of the video call, lamenting “conflict and confrontation” as “not in anyone’s interest”, without blaming Russia.

A White House statement followed, saying Mr Biden had described the “implications and consequences” for Xi if Beijing provided material support to Russia when it attacked Ukrainian cities and civilians.

“The president underlined his support for a diplomatic solution to the crisis,” the White House said in a statement.

“The two leaders also agreed on the importance of maintaining open lines of communication in order to steer competition between our two countries.”

Prior to the call, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Mr Biden would question Mr Xi about Beijing’s “rhetorical support” for Mr Putin and an “absence of condemnation” of Russia’s invasion.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying withdrew, calling the US administration’s proposal that China risks falling on the wrong side of history “overbearing”.

The planning of the leaders’ discussion had been underway since Mr Biden and Mr Xi held a virtual summit in November, but disagreements between Washington and Beijing over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s three-week war in Ukraine were expected to be at the center. of the call.

On Friday, China also sought to highlight its calls for negotiations and its donations of humanitarian aid, while accusing the United States of provoking Russia and fueling the conflict by sending weapons to Ukraine.

Xi reiterated China’s criticism of sanctions imposed on Russia in connection with the invasion, according to Chinese state media.

As before, Mr. Xi did not use the terms war or invasion to describe Russia’s actions.

A full relationship

The two presidents also held a virtual summit in November.(Reuters: Jonathan Ernst)

Relations between the United States and China, which have long been strained, have only become more strained since the beginning of Mr. Biden’s presidency.

Sir. Biden has repeatedly criticized China for military provocations against Taiwan, human rights violations against ethnic minorities, and efforts to suppress pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong.

But relations may have reached a new low with the Russian invasion.

In the days after Mr Putin deployed Russian forces in Ukraine, Mr Xi’s government tried to distance itself from Russia’s offensive, but avoided criticizing Moscow.

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