US ‘watching’ China after reports Beijing preparing to aid Russia

The US State Department issued a stern warning to Beijing and other partners of Russia’s government on Monday after reports indicated that US officials had told Nato allies and countries in Asia that China was preparing to offer military and economic aid to Russia.

Spokesman Ned Price told reporters that the Biden administration would not “stand by” and allow countries to help Russia subvert the western-led campaign of global isolation including devastating economic sanctions that has been launched in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We are watching very closely the extent to which the PRC or any other country for that matter provides any form of support…to Russia,” warned Mr Price.

“Any such support from anywhere in the world would be of great concern to us,” he continued.

The spokesman went on to say that the Biden administration had “communicated very clearly to Beijing that we will not stand by” and allow China to help Russia “compensate…for its losses”.

His remarks occurred as national securityr Jake Sullivan was in Rome meeting with top Chinese officials about the situation and news reports indicated that the Biden administration had told foreign governments that China was preparing to assist Russia both militarily and economically. Russia’s foreign ministry has denied the report.

Mr Price declined to comment on the status of Mr Sullivan’s meeting, which he told reporters was ongoing as he stepped into the briefing. White House press secretary Jen Psaki referred to the meeting as an “intense seven-hour session” that “reflected the gravity of the moment” and said that the US had laid out its position clearly.

She also commented on China’s ability to aid Russia, which she seemed to say would be ineffective when faced with a united response from Nato-aligned nations.

“If China were to decide to be an economic provider or take additional steps there, to Russia, they only make up 15-2 per cent of the world’s economy. The G-7 countries make up more than 5 per cent. So there are a range of tools at our disposal,” she asserted.

Ms Psaki went on to say that there would be “consequences” should China choose to support Russia economically or militarily, but would not say specifically what those consequences would be. The vow was similar to the warnings that the White House issued to Russia in the days leading up to the invasion of Ukraine, when the Biden administration threatened vague but damaging consequences for war.

Mr Price’s remarks on Monday echoed those of Mr Sullivan to reporters a day earlier as he prepared to meet with China’s representatives.

“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,” Mr Sullivan said. “We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country, anywhere in the world.”

Reuters reported on Monday that the US warning about Beijing offering assistance to Russia came via secure diplomatic cable to allies and came with the presupposition that China would deny the plans.

It wasn’t clear what specific assistance the US was accusing China of preparing to provide, but Reuters reported that Russian officials had asked their Chinese counterparts for military equipment.

China’s foreign ministry did not directly address the claims but has frequently accused the US of spreading misinformation and continued to do so on Monday.

“Some in the #US have a habit of creating and leaking #disinformation through anonymous sources. This is a sign of moral degradation. Distasteful and truly pathetic,” tweeted Hua Chunying, an assistant minister of foreign affairs with Beijing’s foreign ministry.

Russia’s economy has been hit hard by international sanctions and other efforts aimed at isolating the country from the global economy, and as a result the value of the ruble has crashed and many businesses have temporarily ceased operations in the country.

The extreme pressure from the US exerted on Beijing to halt any planned aid to Russia comes as NATO-aligned nations are openly providing arms and other equipment to Ukraine’s outnumbered military as it weathers Russia’s invasion.

In recent days that aid became a minor international issue as an offer to provide Ukraine with MiG-29 fighter aircraft from Poland was publicly rejected by the US. Top officials including Defense Department spokesman John Kirby pointed to the planned use of a US airbase to facilitate the deal as a major reason why it didn’t go through.

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