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China says US claim it may arm Russia is 'false'

February 20, 2023

The US had said China was possibly considering supplying Russia with weapons amid the war in Ukraine. But Beijing insisted it was Washington that was "endlessly shipping weapons to the battlefield."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) handshakes China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, photographed on September 23, 2022
File photo - Blinken and Wang Yi clashed on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference over the downing of what the US said was a suspected Chinese spy balloon over its airspaceImage: David 'Dee' Delgado/AP/picture alliance

China on Monday condemned claims by the US that Beijing was considering providing weapons to Russia in its war against Ukraine. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview aired Sunday that American intelligence pointed to China possibly arming its ally Russia, saying that such involvement would be a "serious problem." 

China has refused to criticize Russia for the war and has also avoided calling it an invasion in deference to Moscow.

What did China say? 

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular press briefing that Washington, not Beijing, was "endlessly shipping weapons to the battlefield," in an apparent reference to the US providing weapons to Ukraine. 

Wenbin said Beijing does not accept Washington's "finger-pointing on China-Russia relations, let alone coercion and pressure." 

Last year, just weeks before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, Beijing and Moscow said they struck a "no limits" partnership. Wenbin reiterated on Monday that the two countries' partnership was "based on the basis of non-alignment, non-confrontation and non-targeting of third parties, and is a matter within the sovereignty of two independent countries."

The remarks came as top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi was expected to arrive in Moscow. The Russian newspaper Kommersant said that the main purpose of his trip was to "increase the role of Beijing in the Ukrainian settlement." 

Arming Russia would be 'red line'  

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday warned Beijing against supplying Russia with weapons.

Borrell said he told China's top diplomat that, for the EU, it would be "a red line in our relationship."

"He told me that they are not going to do it, that they don't plan to do it. But we will remain vigilant," Borrell said about his talks with Wang. 

Blinken had told broadcaster CBS News that Washington had information that suggested Beijing was "considering providing lethal support" to Moscow ranging "from ammunition to the weapons themselves."

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken warned Wang at the Munich Security Conference "about the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia or assistance with systemic sanctions evasion."

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock says she has told Chinese diplomats that China must not ship any weapons or so-called dual-use goods to Russia.

Speaking to journalists in Brussels, Baerbock said she had raised the subject while at the same conference last week.

She said she had made clear that "China as a Security Council member is responsible for world peace."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday warned top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi that there would be consequences if China provided material support to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Tense US-China relations

The standoff between the US and Chinese diplomats came amid rising tensions between the two countries after Washington shot down what it said was a Chinese spy balloon earlier this month.

In Munich, Blinken and Wang clashed over the downing of the balloon. 

Price said Blinken warned "about the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia or assistance with systemic sanctions evasion."

Meanwhile, Wang urged the US to "change course, acknowledge and repair the damage that its excessive use of force caused to China-US relations," according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

fb/nm (AFP, AP, Reuters)