Beijing on Monday accused the U.S. of spreading “disinformation” over Russian requests for Chinese help in the war against Ukraine, turning up the diplomatic heat before two top Chinese and American envoys started talks in Rome.
Washington piled pressure on Beijing on Sunday, with several media outlets, including POLITICO, reporting that Russia had requested military assistance from Beijing, citing American officials. It is unclear what kind of assistance Russia was looking for.
That revelation came just before U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his Chinese counterpart, Politburo member Yang Jiechi, arrived at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Rome for talks over the Ukraine crisis, as well as U.S.-China relations.
China is walking a tightrope as its strongest strategic partner, Russia, is increasingly isolated on the world stage. While Beijing plays up strong relations with Moscow, it also does not want those ties to imperil its all-important commercial ties to rich Western economies that are sanctioning Russia.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, without referring to the reports on a Russian request for help, told a regular press conference: “The U.S. has been spreading disinformation targeting China on the Ukraine issue, with malicious intentions.”
Earlier on Sunday, Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union” that “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. 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.”
Earlier this month, the New York Times also reported that China asked Russia to delay the war until the end of the Winter Olympics, which Chinese diplomats also dismissed as disinformation.
China, on the other hand, has been echoing Russian claims that the U.S. had sponsored biolabs in Ukraine, which the U.S. also lambasted as disinformation.