China does not want to be impacted by Western economic sanctions on Russia, state media reported Tuesday, as pressure grows on Beijing to withdraw support from an isolated Moscow.
Beijing has refused to condemn its close ally Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, while blaming the United States and NATO’s “eastward expansion” for worsening tensions.
Moscow and Beijing have grown closer in recent times, in what Washington sees as an increasingly hostile alliance of the authoritarian nuclear powers.
“China is not a party to the crisis, still less wants to be affected by the sanctions,” Wang Yi said, according to a readout of a phone call with his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares published on Tuesday.
China has “always opposed using sanctions to solve problems, let alone unilateral sanctions that has no basis in international law, which will… harm people’s livelihood in all countries”, Wang said according to the readout.
Almost three weeks after Russian troops marched into Ukraine, Moscow’s forces have bombarded and besieged several towns and cities.
Fighting has killed thousands and destroyed infrastructure, as well as causing millions to flee the country.
Wang’s comments were published after a seven-hour meeting between high-ranking US and Chinese officials in Rome, at which Washington said the US had expressed concern about “alignment” between Russia and China.
US media has reported that Russia has asked China for military and economic assistance, as its troops struggle to make ground and its economy faces devastation from Western sanctions.
The New York Times, citing unnamed US officials, said there was no indication whether China had responded.
But Beijing has so far sent mixed signals on Russia’s bloody invasion and US officials say the jury is still out on how China will act.
Asked about articles saying Moscow had asked Beijing for help, a foreign ministry spokesman accused the US of “spreading disinformation” against China.
– ‘Deep concerns’ –
In the Rome meeting on Monday with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, China’s senior diplomat Yang Jiechi reiterated the country’s stance that Beijing is “committed to promoting peace talks”, the official Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday.
China called on all parties to exercise “maximum restraint” and “protect civilians” in the Ukraine crisis at the meeting.
The international community should support such talks to achieve substantive results as soon as possible, Yang said.
Although Beijing does not back Western sanctions, the White House is pressuring the world’s second-largest economy to refrain from rescuing Russia from potential default or sending weaponry.
“We’ve communicated very clearly to Beijing that we won’t stand by,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
“We will not allow any country to compensate Russia for its losses.”