Biden warns Beijing: No ‘material support’ to Russia

President Biden warned Chinese President Xi Jinping that Beijing would face consequences if it provides “material support” to Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine, the White House said Friday. 

“President Biden detailed our efforts to prevent and then respond to the invasion, including by imposing costs on Russia,” said a White House readout of the call published hours after it concluded. “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 has not detailed what those consequences would be. Biden administration officials also repeatedly declined to characterize Xi’s comments on the call.

The two leaders spoke for nearly two hours on Friday morning on a secure video call, which a senior administration official described as “direct,” “substantive” and “detailed” and largely focused on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“We’re concerned that they’re considering directly assisting Russia with military equipment to use in Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Thursday, the day the White House announced plans for the phone call.

The senior administration official told reporters that Biden did not make “specific requests” of Xi when questioned if Biden asked China to intervene to stop the Russian assault. 

“The president really wasn’t making specific requests of China,” the official said. “He was laying out his assessment of the situation, what he thinks makes sense and the implications of certain actions.”

Asked why that was the case later Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters: “Because China has to make a decision for themselves about where they want to stand.”

Psaki said that, following the call, the administration was still concerned about the possibility of China aiding Russia militarily.

“That is something we will be watching and the world will be watching,” she said.

A Chinese readout of the call said that Xi told Biden “that China does not want to see the situation in Ukraine to come to this.” Xi also affirmed support for peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, according to the readout, which also indicated he did not condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

“All sides need to jointly support Russia and Ukraine in having dialogue and negotiation that will produce results and lead to peace,” the readout posted by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. “The US and NATO should also have dialogue with Russia to address the crux of the Ukraine crisis and ease the security concerns of both Russia and Ukraine.”

Both readouts indicated the two leaders tasked their teams to follow up on the conversation in the days ahead. 

China, which has deepened relations with Russia in recent years, has tried to portray itself as a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict. U.S. officials have urged China to condemn Russia’s behavior while raising concerns about China’s ties to Russia.

Reports surfaced earlier this week that Russia was seeking military assistance from China as it continues its invasion.

During a lengthy meeting with China’s top diplomat earlier this week in Rome, Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that Beijing would face consequences if it helped Russia with the invasion financially or militarily.

White House officials have also raised concerns about China amplifying Russian claims that the U.S. is developing biological weapons in Ukraine, which the U.S. has called disinformation meant to lay the foundation for a possible Russian chemical attack. 

The senior administration official told reporters Friday that Biden directly expressed concerns to Xi about China echoing Russian disinformation about bioweapons labs in Ukraine during the call. 

Russia has escalated its attacks on Ukraine since it first launched its invasion three weeks ago, despite officials and experts saying the Russian advance has not moved as quickly or as effectively as the Kremlin had hoped.

Russia has launched missiles targeting hospitals and civilian areas, prompting Biden and Blinken to call Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal.”

The U.S. has provided Ukraine with billions of dollars in humanitarian and security assistance. Biden this week announced a total of $1 trillion in aid that will be used to supply anti-aircraft defense systems, anti-tank weapons and other arms to Ukraine.

Separate from talks on Ukraine, Biden reiterated that the U.S. has not changed its policy on Taiwan and “emphasized that the United States continues to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo,” according to the White House readout.

The senior administration official said Xi was the one who raised the issue of Taiwan.

Taiwan has been a source of some tension between the U.S. and China, and Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has prompted concerns among some international watchdogs that China may try to invade or lay claim to the island.

Biden has previously told Xi the U.S. is committed to the “One China” policy, under which the U.S. does not recognize Taiwan as a separate state from China, but had also mistakenly said the U.S. had an obligation to send troops to Taiwan if it were attacked by China.

Under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the U.S. is committed to providing Taiwan with arms for its defense. The law does not commit the U.S. to sending troops to Taiwan to defend it. 

This story was updated at 5:00 p.m.

Tags Antony Blinken China Jake Sullivan Jen Psaki Joe Biden NATO Russia Ukraine Vladimir Putin

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