May 27. 2024. 9:44

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US warns China not to ‘cross a line’ by providing Russia with lethal weapons

US-China tensions are increasing after Washington warned Beijing not to “cross a line” and provide Russia with lethal weapons while it wages war on Ukraine.

Remarks by US secretary of state Anthony Blinken that Beijing was “strongly” considering the move came after a tense meeting with China’s top diplomat was unable to ease growing tensions as over alleged spy balloons.

“To date, we have seen China ... provide non-lethal support to Russia for use in Ukraine,” said Mr Blinken to NBC. “The concern that we have now is based on information we have that they’re considering providing lethal support.”

Two weeks after President Joe Biden ordered a fighter jet to shoot down a Chinese balloon drifting across the US, China’s leading diplomat described the reaction as “unbelievable, almost hysterical”.

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“There are so many balloons all over the world, and various countries have them, so is the United States going to shoot all of them down?,” asked Mr Wang Yi in Munich on Saturday at the Munich Security Conference.

“We ask the US to show its sincerity and correct its mistakes, face up and resolve this incident, which has damaged Sino-US relations.”

Following his remarks the two men held a meeting after which Mr Blinken said he had spoken “very clearly and very directly” to Mr Yi about the balloon incident.

The US official told NBC news he had received “no apology” over the balloon which Mr Yi, repeating the official Beijing line, said was a civilian research craft blown off course by high winds.

US officials say they are examining the recovered craft and will publish details of all equipment they find inside.

Amid a Munich conference dominated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago, Mr Blinken said the US had “deep concern” that China was shifting its policy on Russia to provide lethal weapons.

Asked in an CBS interview what falls under this category, he said: “Weapons ... primarily weapons”.

“There’s a whole gamut of things that fit in that category, everything from ammunition to the weapons themselves,” he said, both directly to Russia and Russian-backed mercenaries in Ukraine such as the Wagner Group.

In a perceived public swipe at the US, Mr Yi told his Munich audience that “some forces seemingly don’t want negotiations to succeed, or for the war to end soon”.

He warned of a “renewed Cold War mentality” and urged Europe to “think calmly” about how to end the war.

Rebuffing these remarks, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen warned that Beijing had “very clearly taken sides ... with Russia so it has taken a specific position”.

In advance of US president Joe Biden’s visit to Poland on Tuesday, vice-president Kamala Harris said Russia had committed “crimes against humanity” through a “widespread and systematic attack” on Ukrainian civilians with execution-style killings, torture, rape and forced deportations.

Leading a delegation that included some 50 US politicians, Ms Harris insisted “the United States will support Ukraine for as long as it takes” and the transatlantic Alliance was “stronger than ever”.

Amid existing transatlantic tensions on trade, hairline cracks appeared visible in Munich on both the priorities for Ukraine and the focus of US and European allies.

While Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba insisted the war would only end with “the full restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity”, Mr Blinken sidestepped a question as to whether this would include the Crimean peninsula, annexed illegally by Russia in 2014.

For all the talk of ongoing support for Ukraine, leading European politicians and officials were downbeat in their assessment of the global outlook. Speaking after China’s Wang Yi, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg warned that “what is happening in Europe today ... could happen in East Asia tomorrow” – a nod to concerns over a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

Repeating his message to Nato members to expedite their supplies of equipment and arms to Ukraine, he warned that China is “watching closely to see the price Russia pays – or the reward it receives for its aggression”.

Amid an ongoing Turkish veto on Sweden’s Nato ambitions, prime minister Sanna Marin insisted in Munich that a joint accession was best “not only because we are good neighbours and partners, it’s also to do with very concrete matters – the security planning of Nato”.