China’s premier Li stressed ‘irresponsibility’ of nuclear threats at Asia summit: US official

China's Premier Li Keqiang at the 17th East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov 13, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NUSA DUA, Indonesia - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang emphasised the “irresponsibility” of nuclear threats during a summit in Cambodia, suggesting Beijing is uncomfortable with strategic partner Russia’s nuclear rhetoric, a senior US official said on Monday.

Mr Li participated in the East Asia Summit on Sunday along with US President Joe Biden. The Chinese premier “spoke rather extensively about China’s policy towards Ukraine,” said a senior US administration official, who briefed reporters ahead of a summit between Mr Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday.

Mr Li “put clear emphasis on sovereignty, on the irresponsibility of nuclear threats, the need to ensure that nuclear weapons are not used in the way that some have suggested”, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The West has accused Russia of making irresponsible statements on the possible use of nuclear weapons since its February invasion of Ukraine. Moscow has in turn accused the West of “provocative” nuclear rhetoric.

The US official said there was “undeniably some discomfort in Beijing about what we’ve seen in terms of reckless rhetoric and activity on the part of Russia,” despite a formal partnership with Moscow.

“I think it is also undeniable that China is probably both surprised and even a little bit embarrassed by the conduct of Russian military operations,” the official said.

Mr Biden at the summit on Sunday in Cambodia said the United States would “compete vigorously” with China while keeping lines of communication open to prevent conflict.

Mr Biden and Mr Xi will meet in person on Monday for the first time since Mr Biden assumed office early last year.

Premier Li is expected to be replaced next year, and the US official said Washington believes Mr Xi will bring “some new faces” to the meeting with Mr Biden on Monday. REUTERS

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