China offers to mediate, will send aid to Ukraine; ties with Russia 'rock solid': Wang Yi

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi attends a press conference on China's foreign policy and foreign relations in Beijing, China, on March 7, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING - Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday (March 7) sidestepped questions on whether Beijing's refusal to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine would diminish its international standing, saying it has "done some work" in promoting peace talks and was willing to help with mediation efforts.

China's Red Cross would also send emergency humanitarian aid to Ukraine "as soon as possible", he said.

In his annual press conference on the sidelines of the national parliamentary sessions, Mr Wang defended China's "objective and impartial" position on the crisis, while continuing to frame it as one stemming from the complicated history of Russia and Ukraine.

"What is needed to solve complex problems is calmness and rationality, instead of adding fuel to the fire and intensifying conflicts," said Mr Wang in a swipe at the United States, which it has blamed for fanning the flames of war.

China has been criticised for siding with Russia, despite proclaiming that it holds a neutral position on the Ukraine crisis.

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Ukraine nearly two weeks ago, Beijing has refused to condemn the attack or describe it as an invasion.

China has denounced the sanctions imposed against Moscow and has repeatedly urged Western powers to recognise Russia's "legitimate security concerns", which includes Nato's growing footprint eastwards, while promoting a pro-Russia narrative domestically.

Mr Putin's military offensive has put China in a tough spot, as it tries to balance its strategic partnership with Russia, its long-held principle of respect for non-interference and territorial sovereignty, and its relations with the US and Europe.

But Beijing's official stance has also frustrated world leaders and observers, who have called it contradictory.

On Monday, Mr Wang stuck to the same lines, while urging for a peaceful resolution in Ukraine and for a large-scale humanitarian crisis to be prevented there.

"China is willing to continue to play a constructive role in promoting peace talks, and is also willing to work with the international community to carry out necessary mediation," Mr Wang told foreign and domestic media via a video link, a Covid-19 measure implemented for the third time for his annual meet-the-press session.

Mr Wang categorised ties between China and Russia as "rock solid" and described prospects for cooperation between them as "very broad", contradicting some recent reports that Beijing appeared to be distancing itself from its neighbour to the north.

"No matter how dangerous the international situation is, China and Russia will maintain their strategic resolve and continuously push forward the comprehensive strategic partnership in the new era," said the Chinese Foreign Minister.

He also dismissed comparisons between Ukraine and Taiwan, saying it was "naked double standard" to emphasise Ukraine's sovereignty while undermining China's territorial integrity over Taiwan.

"The most fundamental difference is that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China's territory and the Taiwan issue is entirely China's internal affair, while the Ukraine issue is a dispute between two countries, Russia and Ukraine," he said.

Follow The Straits Times' live coverage on the Ukraine crisis here.

Remote video URL

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.