Xi tells Biden Ukraine crisis not in anyone’s interest

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WASHINGTON/BEIJING - Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart Joe Biden on Friday (March 18) that conflict and confrontation, including in Ukraine, is not in anyone’s interest, said the Chinese foreign ministry.

“The Ukraine crisis is not something we want to see,” Mr Xi told Mr Biden during a video call that lasted two hours. The two leaders last spoke in November.

“The events again show that countries should not come to the point of meeting on the battlefield. Conflict and confrontation are not in anyone’s interest, and peace and security are what the international community should treasure the most,” said Mr Xi.

He added that China and the US must guide their relations forward on the right track, and shoulder their share of international responsibilities and work for world peace.

The White House has not yet released a statement on the conversation between the two leaders, but earlier on Thursday said that Mr Biden would warn Mr Xi of the steep costs for China if it arms Russia.

China’s tacit support for Russia, amid the international drive to isolate Moscow spearheaded by the US, has become the latest issue to bedevil ties between Washington and Beijing, with implications for how both help resolve the largest military conflict in Europe since World War II.

Washington, which has been increasingly vocal in recent days about its concerns about China’s growing alignment with Russia, wants Beijing to do more to press Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war. Meanwhile, China wants to maintain its friendship with Russia while avoiding secondary sanctions.

“China will never accept US threats and coercion, and if the US takes measures that harm China’s legitimate interests and the interests of Chinese enterprises and individuals, China will not sit idly by and will make a strong response,” state media Global Times quoted an unnamed Chinese official as saying, earlier Friday.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Thursday that Mr Biden “will make clear that China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia’s aggression”.

“We will not hesitate to impose costs,” he added.

He said the US believes China “has a responsibility to use its influence on President Putin, and to defend the international rules and principles that it professes to support”.

But China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion, “while seeking to portray itself as a neutral arbiter”, said Mr Blinken, adding that the US was concerned that China is considering helping Russia with military equipment.

Beijing has denied the claims, and has repeatedly denounced the use of sanctions by the US and other nations, saying they will not solve the crisis in Ukraine but will hurt ordinary people instead.

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Friday's video call will be “an opportunity for Mr Biden to assess where Mr Xi stands” on the conflict in Ukraine.

“What the US is trying to do is trying to highlight to Xi Jinping and the top leaders (in China) the thresholds that they’re about to cross,” said Mr Evan Medeiros, a former national security official in the Obama administration.

“Not only are the costs very very high...but once you cross them, you can’t go back. They’re unrecoverable and would really put the US-China relationship on a fundamentally different trajectory,” he added on Thursday during an online panel discussion at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a Washington-based think tank. 

The Global Times, quoting the unnamed Chinese official, said Mr Xi was also expected to seek assurances from Mr Biden that the US will not seek a new Cold War, or change “China’s system” or form alliances against it, and that it will not support those agitating for Taiwan’s independence.

In a separate development on Friday, Mr Putin had a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during which the Russian leader accused the Ukrainian authorities of stalling peace talks, but he added that Moscow was ready to search for solutions.

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