Biden warns Xi of 'consequences' for backing Russia, both call for peace in Ukraine

Ukraine has added a new front in a US-Chinese relationship already at its worst level in decades.

 US PRESIDENT Joe Biden speaks on Tuesday at the White House about the situation in Russia and Ukraine. (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
US PRESIDENT Joe Biden speaks on Tuesday at the White House about the situation in Russia and Ukraine.
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

US President Joe Biden warned Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Friday there would be 'consequences' if Beijing gave material support to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the White House said, while both sides stressed the need for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

In a video call that lasted just under two hours at a time of deepening acrimony between the world's two biggest powers, Biden detailed efforts of the United States and its allies to respond to the invasion, including by imposing costs on Russia.

"He described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians," the White House said in statement, adding that Biden "underscored his support for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis."

China's foreign ministry said Xi told Biden the war in Ukraine must end as soon as possible and called on NATO nations to hold a dialog with Moscow. He did not, however, assign blame to Russia for the invasion.

"The top priorities now are to continue dialog and negotiations, avoid civilian casualties, prevent a humanitarian crisis, cease fighting and end the war as soon as possible," Xi said.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jingping, Jan. 2020 (credit: NAOHIKO HATTA/POOL VIA REUTERS)WHO director general Tedros Adhanom shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jingping, Jan. 2020 (credit: NAOHIKO HATTA/POOL VIA REUTERS)

He said all parties should support Russia-Ukraine dialog and negotiations while Washington and NATO should also conduct talks with Russia to solve the "crux" of the Ukraine crisis and resolve the security concerns of both Russia and Ukraine.

"The Ukraine crisis is something that we don't want to see," Chinese state media quoted Xi saying in the call, which it said was requested by the US side.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration was concerned China was considering directly assisting Russia with military equipment for use in Ukraine, something Beijing has denied.

Washington is also worried that China could help Russia circumvent Western economic sanctions.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine, now in its fourth week, has killed hundreds of civilians, reduced city areas to rubble and sparked a humanitarian crisis as millions flee the country. Read full story

Russia fired missiles at an airport near Lviv on Friday, a city where hundreds of thousands had sought refuge far from Ukraine's battlefields, as Moscow tries to regain the initiative in its stalled campaign against Ukraine, which it calls a special military operation. 

 

US-CHINA TENSIONS

Ukraine has added a new front in a US-Chinese relationship already at its worst level in decades, further deflating Biden's initial hopes of easing a wide range of disputes by using a personal connection with Xi that predates his term in office.

Biden has been anxious to avoid a new "Cold War" with China, seeking instead to define the relationship as one of competitive coexistence, but China's "no-limits" strategic partnership with Russia announced last month and its stance on Ukraine has called that into question.

Ahead of the call, a Chinese aircraft carrier sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Friday. The USS Ralph Johnson, an Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyer, shadowed the carrier at least partly on its route.

China claims Taiwan as its own, and has stepped up its military activity near the islands, alarming Taipei and Washington amid concerns that Beijing might follow Russia's example and use force.

China has refused to condemn Russia's action in Ukraine or call it an invasion. While saying it recognizes Ukraine's sovereignty, Beijing has repeatedly said that Russia has legitimate security concerns that should be addressed and urged a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

While Biden's administration has threatened counter-measures if China helps Russia's Ukraine effort, it and its allies have not yet decided precisely what steps they might take, according to a person involved in the conversations.

Targeting Beijing with the sort of extensive economic sanctions imposed on Russia would have potentially dire consequences for the United States and the world, given that China is the world's second-largest economy and the largest exporter.