China’s top diplomat visits Moscow ahead of the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Hong Kong (CNN) China’s chief diplomat Wang Yi He arrived in Moscow on Tuesday, the first visit to Russia by a Chinese official in that role since the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began nearly a year ago.

Wang, who was appointed chief foreign policy adviser to Chinese leader Xi Jinping last month, is making the high-profile visit as the final stop of an eight-day international tour that included visits to France, Italy and Hungary, as well as Germany. security conference.

Russia’s official TASS news agency reported, quoting the Russian Foreign Ministry, that he will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday. While neither country has specified whether Wang will hold talks with President Vladimir Putin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that “we do not rule out” such a meeting.

Wang met with the head of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, on Tuesday, according to A.N Read From the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The statement said the two officials agreed to oppose “Cold War mentality, confrontation of bloc and ideological opposition” — a somewhat veiled criticism of the United States — and make more efforts to “improve global governance,” an apparent reference to Beijing. and Moscow’s ambitions to reshape the world order in its favour.

The statement added that Wang and Patrushev “also exchanged their views” on the Ukraine issue, without elaborating.

Wang’s visit follows the US president Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Monday, in a show of support for the embattled country, which Washington and its European allies have rallied together to support over the past year through military and humanitarian aid, and economic sanctions against Russia.

The diplomat arrived in Moscow only days later US officials He voiced concerns about how China’s continued partnership with Russia could have an impact on the war in Ukraine — and hours after Putin delivered a major speech about the conflict, he announced plans Suspension of Russia’s involvement In the last remaining nuclear weapons treaty with the United States.

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The Chinese leadership claimed neutrality in the conflict but instead refused to condemn the Russian invasion Expanding business relations the continuation of joint military exercises, Including this week.

But during his engagements in European cities in recent days, Wang has built on China framing itself as a supporter of peace and negotiations, telling the Munich Security Conference (MSC) on Saturday that Beijing will state its position on the issue. “political settlement” from the crisis.

Those statements were met with skepticism from some Western leaders who closely monitor any support that China provides to its northern neighbor, especially beyond some issues. “Red lines” Washington drafted it.

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang reiterated Beijing’s messages on Ukraine at a security forum in the Chinese capital. He said China is “very concerned” that the conflict will “spin out of control”, and will continue to urge peace talks and provide “Chinese wisdom” for a political settlement.

“At the same time, we urge the relevant countries to immediately stop pouring fuel on the fire, stop blaming China, and stop exaggerating Ukrainian rhetoric today, and Taiwan tomorrow,” he said, clearly referring to the United States and the United States. its allies.

The United States warns that China may provide Russia with ‘lethal support’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration has concerns that Beijing is considering strengthening its partnership with Moscow by providing the Russian military with “lethal support” as Russia prepares for an expected new offensive.

“We’ve been watching this very closely,” Blinken told CBS’s “Face the Nation” from MSC in an interview that aired Sunday. “The concern we now have is based on information we have that they are considering a lethal support, and we have made it clear to them that it would cause a serious problem for us and our relationship.”

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Blinken Wang also warned “of the repercussions and consequences” if China increased its support for the Russian war effort, during a meeting between the two sides on the sidelines of the conference, according to a US statement.

A senior State Department official told reporters that Blinken “has been very vocal in his warning about the ramifications and consequences of China providing material support to Russia or assisting Russia in its systematic evasion of sanctions.”

US officials familiar with the intelligence told CNN earlier Saturday that the United States has recently begun to see “troubling” trend lines in China’s support for the Russian military, and there are signs that Beijing wants to “sneak the line” of providing lethal military assistance to Russia without getting caught. .

Those officials did not describe in detail what intelligence the US has seen indicating a recent shift in China’s stance, but they said US officials were concerned enough that they had shared the intelligence with allies and partners in Munich over the past several days.

Wang, on the Maritime Safety Committee, said China was “very concerned” about the protracted crisis and had not poured “fuel on the fire” — a phrase Beijing diplomats have used in the past to accuse the United States of perpetuating the conflict. On Monday, China’s foreign ministry said it was the United States, not China, that was sending “a steady stream of weapons to the battlefield.”

Wang did not mention the trip to Russia during his prepared remarks or during a live-streamed conversation Saturday on the main stage of the Munich conference, when asked by MSC Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger if China was willing to work on its “position that it respects the territorial integrity” of Ukraine, And if so, how.

During his meetings with European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, during the earlier leg of his tour last week, Wang reaffirmed China’s commitment to peace talks and ending the war. The tour is seen as part of China’s bid to boost its ties with Europe, where analysts say Beijing’s image has been damaged in the past year by its ties with Moscow.

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A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Monday that Wang’s visit to Moscow will provide an opportunity for China and Russia to further develop their strategic partnership and “exchange views” on “international and regional hot issues of common concern.” The whole phrase is often used to refer to topics including the war in Ukraine.

“China is willing to take this visit as an opportunity and work with Russia to promote the steady development of bilateral relations in the direction set by the presidents of the two countries, defend the legitimate rights and interests of both sides, and play an active role in the world,” the spokesperson said.

Wang’s visit may also herald a state visit by Xi to Moscow later this year. Putin extended the invitation to Xi during a normally end-of-year call between the two leaders, but China’s foreign ministry has yet to confirm any plans.

in editorial On Tuesday, the nationalist state-run Global Times newspaper hailed the friendship between China and Russia as a “positive asset to the world,” and accused some in the West of trying to exploit the conflict in Ukraine to “hijack” Sino-Russian relations.

“The United States has viewed the friendly relations between China and Russia with thick, tinted glasses from the very beginning,” she added. “In fact, regardless of whether the conflict between Russia and Ukraine breaks out, the United States does not want to see China and Russia develop close relations. Washington’s suspicions, provocations and sabotage have not stopped.”

CNN’s Nectar Jan contributed to this report.

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