May 20. 2024. 11:23

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US puts pressure on China over Ukraine, Macron announces Beijing visit


The United States warned China of serious consequences were it to provide arms to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while French President Emmanuel Macron said he would visit Beijing in April.

Washington and its NATO allies are scrambling to dissuade China from providing military aid for Moscow’s war, making public comments on their belief that Beijing is considering providing lethal equipment possibly including drones.

Western fears of China helping to arm Russia come as Moscow’s forces struggle to make gains around key objectives in eastern Ukraine, and as Kyiv prepares a counter-offensive with advanced Western weapons including battle tanks.

President Joe Biden said Friday the US “would respond” if China were to supply Russia with lethal weapons in its war against Ukraine.

Asked by the ABC anchor whether there would be “serious consequences”, he answered:

“I’ll let you characterize what they would be. We would respond,” Biden said.

Beijing has refused to condemn Moscow’s attack on Ukraine, most recently at a meeting of the Group of Twenty (G20) in India on Saturday (25 February). It published a ceasefire proposal on Friday, the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the offer was met with skepticism among Ukraine’s Western allies.

Key takeaways from China’s Ukraine position paper

China released a new position paper outlining its stance on the Ukraine conflict on Friday (24 February), the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

The US President appeared to dismiss China as a peace negotiator.

“China negotiating the outcome of a war that’s a totally unjust war for Ukraine is just not rational”, he said.

"The idea that China is going to be negotiating the outcome of a war that’s a totally unjust war for Ukraine is just not rational," Pres. Biden tells @DavidMuir of China’s peace plan. https://t.co/DSROdHF7Kb pic.twitter.com/lSH32uwYcr

— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) February 25, 2023

“Beijing will have to make its own decisions about how it proceeds, whether it provides military assistance – but if it goes down that road it will come at real costs to China,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union” programme.

While China had not moved forward in providing that aid, neither had it taken the option off the table, Sullivan said in a separate interview on ABC’s “This Week” programme.

“When I hear reports – and I don’t know whether they are true – according to which China may be planning to supply kamikaze drones to Russia while at the same time presenting a peace plan, then I suggest we judge China by its actions and not its words,” German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius told German public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk on Sunday.

Visits announced

French President Emmanuel Macron also urged China not to send weapons to Russia on Saturday, announcing that he would visit China in April.

“The fact that China is engaging in peace efforts is a good thing,” Macron said on the sidelines of an agricultural show in Paris, in reference to the position paper.

Chinese ambassador to the EU Fu Cong said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel may visit China in the first half of 2023, China’s state-backed Global Times reported.

Preparations for the visit by the EU’s top two officials are under way and “very frequent high-level mutual visits” between the EU and China are expected to begin soon, Fu said in an interview published on Friday.

CIA Director William Burns also weighed in regarding China in an interview aired on Sunday, saying the US intelligence agency was “confident that the Chinese leadership is considering the provision of lethal equipment”.

“We also don’t see that a final decision has been made yet, and we don’t see evidence of actual shipments of lethal equipment,” Burns told CBS’s “Face the Nation” programme.

CIA Director William Burns says the U.S. is “confident” that China is "considering the provision of lethal equipment" to aid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Burns told @margbrennan that the U.S. is hoping to "deter" Beijing from making a "very risky and unwise bet.” pic.twitter.com/9iD5XLGAy0

— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) February 25, 2023

Republican Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, cited reports that drones were among the weapons China was considering sending to Russia.

McCaul said Chinese leader Xi Jinping was preparing to visit Moscow next week for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin cast the Ukraine war, which he calls a “special military operation”, as a confrontation with the West which threatens the survival of Russia and the Russian people.

“They have one goal: to disband the former Soviet Union and its fundamental part – the Russian Federation,” Putin told Rossiya 1 state television in an interview recorded on Wednesday but released on Sunday.

NATO and the West dismiss this narrative, saying their objective in providing weapons and other aid to Kyiv is to help Ukraine defend itself against an unprovoked attack.

Even so, Putin’s framing of the war as a threat to Russia’s existence allows the Kremlin chief greater freedom in the types of weapons he could one day use, including possibly nuclear weapons.

Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president and an ally of Putin, said in remarks published on Monday that the supply of Western arms to Kyiv risked a global nuclear catastrophe.

Commander visits front

On the frontlines, Ukrainian ground forces commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi visited the eastern city of Bakhmut, the focus of Russia’s attacks for months as it tries to take control of the Donbas industrial region.

Ukrainian forces launched a number of counter-attacks and repulsed Russian forces around the village of Yahidne over the weekend, after Russia’s Wagner mercenary group claimed to have captured it and the village of Berkhivka.

The Russian defence ministry said on Sunday that its forces had destroyed Ukrainian “sabotage and reconnaissance groups,” including in the area of Yahidne, while Russia’s TASS state agency reported that Ukraine’s forces blew up a dam just north of Bakhmut.

The battlefield reports could not be independently verified.

Syrskyi visited Bakhmut to boost morale and talk strategy with units defending the town and surrounding villages, the Ukrainian military said.

He “listened to the unit commanders tackling urgent problems, provided assistance in solving them, and supported the servicemen,” the Ground Forces said on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday fired a senior commander helping lead the fight in the east, but gave no reason for the move.

In a one-line decree, Zelenskyy announced the dismissal of Eduard Moskalyov as commander of the joint forces of Ukraine, which are engaged in battles in the Donbas.