US and China hold Ukraine talks
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with China's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi,for an "intense" seven-hour conversation on Monday to discuss reports that Russia has asked Beijing for arms to support its invasion of Ukraine, US officials said.
The US expressed "deep concerns" about China's "alignment" with Russia after the talks.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said, "The national security adviser and our delegation raised directly and very clearly our concerns about the [People's Republic of China] PRC's support to Russia in the wake of the invasion, and the implications that any such support would have for the PRC's relationship not only with us, but for its relationships around the world."
What were expectations ahead of the talks?
Ahead of the meeting in Rome, US officials said Sullivan would stress to Yang the economic penalties that China would face for offering Moscow military support or for defying Western sanctions on importing goods to Russia.
Consequences could include withdrawing Chinese firms' access to the US-produced equipment and software needed to make their products, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said last week.
The meeting was the first between Sullivan and Yang since the two met in Zürich in October to ease tensions after the two shared an acrimonious exchanged in Alaska earlier in 2021.
What is the extent of China's support to Russia?
China has not publicly supported Russia's war in Ukraine, but in February Premier Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a "no limits" strategic partnership, much to the chagrin of Western powers.
However, Xi later called for "maximum restraint" in Ukraine and expressed concern about the impact of Western sanctions on the global economy, amid growing signs that they limit China's ability to buy Russian oil.
What is going on behind the scenes of US-China relations?
"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 told CNN on Sunday.
Tough economic sanctions against Beijing appeared unlikely, however, as China is the biggest exporter in the world, the European Union's largest trading partner and the foremost supplier of goods to the United States.
For their part, Chinese officials dismissed the reports in the Financial Times that Russia has requested weapons as "disinformation."
es, ar/aw (AP, Reuters)