Beijing’s defense minister told his US counterpart Wednesday not to “use the Ukraine issue to smear, frame, threaten or pressure China”, following criticism of its perceived backing of Russia’s invasion.
Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe’s comments came days after a senior US senator said China must pay a greater price for backing Moscow.
China has not condemned the invasion of Ukraine, and has defended its stance on the conflict, while the United States has warned Beijing’s unwillingness to sanction Russia could affect its relations with other economies.
In a phone call with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Wednesday, Wei asked the United States to “stop conducting military provocations at sea, and not to use the Ukraine issue to smear, frame, threaten or pressure China”, according to a defense ministry statement.
Wei also reiterated Beijing’s position on Taiwan, warning that if the “issue” was not handled properly, it would have a “destabilising impact” on US-China ties.
Beijing has never controlled democratic Taiwan but views the island as part of its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.
Wei said that China “hopes to establish a healthy and stable major-country relationship with the US, and will also defend its national interests and dignity”.
A Pentagon statement said that the officials discussed US-China defense relations, regional security issues, and Russia’s “unprovoked invasion of Ukraine”.
The phone call comes after China signed a security deal with the Solomon Islands, despite Washington raising alarm over the pact.
The agreement — which sparked fears of China gaining a military foothold in the South Pacific — was inked just shortly before top US officials were due to arrive in the Pacific nation for high-level talks, much to Washington’s ire.