White House calls on China to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine

White House press secretary Jen Psaki: "This is not a time to stand on the sidelines."

China flag  (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/ECOW)
China flag
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/ECOW)

The White House called on China to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Sunday as Moscow's onslaught against its neighbor continued and Russian President Vladimir Putin put nuclear forces on high alert.

"This is not a time to stand on the sidelines. This is a time to be vocal and condemn the actions of President Putin and Russia invading a sovereign country," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in an interview with MSNBC.

This comes after a senior Biden administration official said China so far does not appear to be helping Russia evade Western financial sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, but doing so would "do profound damage" to China's reputation.

"The latest signs suggest that China's not coming to the rescue," the official told reporters after announcing that the United States and its allies agreed to impose sanctions against Russia's central bank and disconnect key Russian banks from the SWIFT international financial transaction network.

The official said that recent reports that some Chinese banks have stopped issuing letters of credit for purchases of physical commodities from Russia were a positive sign.

 Russian Rouble coins are seen in front of displayed descending stock graph in this illustration taken, February 24, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION) Russian Rouble coins are seen in front of displayed descending stock graph in this illustration taken, February 24, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION)

This "suggests that, much like has been the pattern for years and years, China has tended to respect the force of US sanctions," the official added.

China is Russia's biggest trade partner for both exports and imports, buying a third of Russia's crude oil exports in 2020 and supplying it with manufactured products from cell phones and computers to toys and clothing.

The official said that if China were to help Russia evade US sanctions, "it really would be an unfortunate signal for China's vision of the world," and give "tacit or explicit accommodation to Russia's invasion of a sovereign country in the heart of Europe."

"It would do profound damage to its reputation in Europe, but really across the world," the official said of China.