Xi expected to urge Biden to promote Ukraine peace talks; warn against hurting Chinese interests: State media

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BEIJING - US President Joe Biden will warn his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that Beijing's support of Russia's war in Ukraine will come with costs, but Mr Xi is likely to have a warning or two for the American leader too.

China's Foreign Ministry on Friday (March 18) confirmed that the two leaders will discuss during their phone call issues of "common concern" and that Ukraine will also be on the agenda.

But a report by state media Global Times, citing unnamed Chinese officials, said Mr Xi will urge Mr Biden to promote peace talks and will warn the United States that China will respond should its national interests and those of its companies and people be affected.

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

Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in one of the most direct remarks about the possible impact of the war on his country, said China was not a party to the conflict and did not want sanctions to hurt it.

It had the right to safeguard its interests, said Mr Wang.

China has also criticised the US for spreading what it says was false information, such as reports that Beijing had shared US intelligence on Russia's imminent attack on Ukraine with President Vladimir Putin, and that it had also asked the Russian leader to delay plans for the invasion until after the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Unnamed US officials have also been quoted in the the media as saying that Russia had sought military help from China, a claim Beijing has dismissed.

"As the initiator and directly concerned party of the Ukraine crisis, the US should reflect on its own role, earnestly assume its historical responsibility and take concrete actions to resolve the crisis and win the trust of the international community," the Global Times quoted the official as saying.

"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."

A seven-hour meeting in Rome on Monday that was described as "intense" by US officials between China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi and US national security adviser Jake Sullivan helped pave the way for the phone call on Friday night (March 18) between the two leaders.

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, and we will not hesitate to impose costs".

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".

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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.

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

Mr Xi is 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, Global Times quoted the official as saying.

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