Sullivan meets China’s Yang, with U.S. warning of perils of aiding Russia

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Rome on Monday after American officials said he planned to stress the economic penalties that Beijing would face if it helps Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported that Yang had met Sullivan in Rome, but gave no other details, including whether the meeting had concluded.

Sullivan planned to warn of the isolation China could face globally if it continued to support Russia, one U.S. official said, without providing details.

Officials of the United States and other countries have sought to make clear to China in recent weeks that siding with Russia could carry consequences for trade flows, development of new technologies and could expose it to secondary sanctions. read more

Chinese companies defying U.S. restrictions on exports to Russia may be cut off from American equipment and software they need to make their products, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said last week.

It was Sullivan’s first-known meeting with Yang since closed-door sessions in Zurich in October that sought to calm tensions after an acrimonious public exchange between the two in Alaska a year ago.

China is the world’s-largest exporter, the European Union’s largest trading partner and the top foreign supplier of goods to the United States. Any pressure on Chinese trade could cause economic effects for the United States and its allies.

U.S. officials told Reuters on Sunday that Russia had asked China for military equipment after its invasion, sparking concern within President Joe Biden’s administration that Beijing might undermine Western efforts to aid Ukraine by helping to strengthen Moscow’s military.

Russia denied it had asked China’s for military assistance and said it has sufficient military clout to fulfill all of its aims in Ukraine.

Sullivan told CNN on Sunday that the United States was watching closely to see how far China provided economic or material support to Russia.

“We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing, that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them,” Sullivan said. “We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country, anywhere in the world.”

U.S.-Chinese ties, already at their lowest in decades, took a further plunge last month when leaders Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia announced an upgraded “no limits” strategic partnership just weeks before the Ukraine invasion.

China, a key trading partner of Russia, has refused to call Moscow’s actions an invasion, although Xi last week did call for “maximum restraint” and express concern about the impact of Western sanctions on the global economy, amid growing signs that they limit China’s ability to buy Russian oil.

The United States and its allies have imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia and banned its energy imports, while providing billions of dollars of military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

China’s Washington embassy expressed surprise about reports of Russia’s request for military aid, which first appeared in the Financial Times newspaper, and a leading Chinese analyst suggested Beijing could act as a mediator in Ukraine.

Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu called the current situation in Ukraine “disconcerting” and added, “We support and encourage all efforts that are conducive to a peaceful settlement of the crisis.”

On Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian described as U.S. “disinformation” the reports that Russia was seeking military equipment from China.

During the same daily media briefing in Beijing, Zhao said Ukraine would “definitely be one of the main items on the agenda” of Monday’s meeting between Sullivan and Yang.

Daniel Russel, who served as the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia under President Barack Obama and has close ties to the Biden administration, called the prospect of China serving as a mediator to end the war “far-fetched” even if “Beijing may talk a good game about ceasefires and mediation to insulate itself from blame.”

Authors: David Brunnstrom, Michael Martina, Andrea Shalal, Antonio Denti, Eduardo Baptista, Reuters

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