U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who is due to meet with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Rome on Monday, warned Beijing it would “absolutely” face consequences if it helped Moscow evade sweeping sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
Russia asked China for military equipment after its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, sparking concern in the White House that Beijing may undermine Western efforts to help Ukrainian forces defend their country, several U.S. officials said.
Sullivan plans in his meeting with Yang to make Washington’s concerns clear while mapping out the consequences and growing isolation China would face globally if it increases its support of Russia, one U.S. official said, without providing details.
Asked about Russia’s request for military aid, first reported by the Financial Times, Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for China’s embassy in Washington, said: “I’ve never heard of that.”
Liu said “utmost efforts should be made to support Russia and Ukraine in carrying forward negotiations despite the difficult situation to produce a peaceful outcome.”
Sullivan told CNN on Sunday that Washington believed China was aware Russia was planning some action in Ukraine before the invasion took place, although Beijing may not have understood the full extent of what was planned.
After the invasion began, Russia sought both military equipment and support from China, the U.S. officials said.
Sullivan told CNN Washington was watching closely to see to what extent Beijing provided economic or material support to Russia, and would impose consequences if that occurred.
“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,” 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.”
The meeting, planned for some time, is part of a broader effort by Washington and Beijing to maintain open channels of communication and manage competition between the world’s two largest economies, a senior Biden administration official said.
No specific outcomes were expected, the source added, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the meeting’s focus was to “implement the important consensus” reached during the virtual meeting held between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden in November, which discussed “strategic stability” and arms control issues.