China trashes US claim it intends to arm Russia

Published February 21, 2023
KING Charles III visits Ukrainian military recruits undergoing training in Wiltshire, Britain, on Monday.—Reuters
KING Charles III visits Ukrainian military recruits undergoing training in Wiltshire, Britain, on Monday.—Reuters

BEIJING/BRUSSELS: Beijing strongly denied on Monday US claims that China was considering arming Russia in its war against Ukraine, as it reiterated a call for dialogue to end the conflict.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Beijing was now “considering providing lethal support” to Moscow ranging “from ammunition to the weapons themselves”.

“It is the United States and not China that is endlessly shipping weapons to the battlefield,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Monday, when asked about the US claims.

“We urge the United States to earnestly reflect on its own actions, and do more to alleviate the situation, promote peace and dialogue, and stop shifting blame and spreading false information,” Wang told a regular briefing. Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine is a sensitive issue for Beijing, which has sought to position itself as neutral while offering diplomatic backing to its strategic ally Russia.

“It is clear to the international community who is calling for dialogue and fighting for peace, and who is adding fuel to the fire and encouraging opposition,” Wang added, reiterating a call for support for a Chinese proposal to end the war.

EU warns Beijing would cross the ‘red line’ if it supplies weapons to Moscow

On Saturday, China said it would publish this week a proposal to find a “political solution” to the Ukraine crisis, with Beijing’s top diplomat telling a conference the country is “on the side of dialogue”.The EU’s foreign policy chief on Monday warned China against providing Russia weapons for its war on Ukraine, after Beijing dismissed US allegations that it was considering sending arms.

Josep Borrell said he told China’s top diplomat Wang Yi at a meeting over the weekend that “for us, it would be a red line in our relationship.”

The 27-nation EU has sided firmly with Ukraine since Moscow launch­ed its all-out invasion a year ago, providing Kyiv with weapons and financial aid worth billions of euros.

“He told me that they are not going to do it, that they don’t plan to do it. But we will remain vigilant,” Borrell told journalists ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

There has been widespread concern about Beijing’s deeping relationship with Moscow and its refusal to condemn the Kremlin’s aggression outright.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom warned that if China did start supplying arms to Russia then “it would definitely have consequences”.

“We need to pressure by all means also and give a warning to China that the international community will anyhow not accept it,” Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said.

While the EU issued warnings to Beijing, the bloc was also weighing up plans to try to speed up its production and delivery of much-needed ammunition to help Kyiv’s fight.

“We’ll do everything we can,” Borrell said. “This is the most urgent issue, if we fail on that then really the result of the war is in danger.” Estonia has put forward a proposal for EU nations to club together to spend four billion euros (4.3 billion euros) to buy one million 155-millimetre shells for Ukraine.

Ukraine is estimated to be burning through thousands more shells each month than the EU defence industry is currently able to produce.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2023

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