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WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Friday warned against China pushing a one-sided peace deal between Russia and Ukraine.
White House spokesman John Kirby said Chinese President Xi Jinping should reach out directly to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy now that Xi is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The “so-called peace plan” China has proposed, Kirby said, would formalize Putin’s gains and allow Russia to continue to occupy parts of Ukraine.
“It would be a classic part of the China playbook to go into a meeting like this, come out of it saying `Look, we’re the ones calling for an end to the fighting and nobody else is,’” Kirby said. “The reason why the rest of the world is not calling for that right now is because it would effectively ratify Russia’s geographic gains inside Ukraine and it would put Mr. Zelenskyy at a distinct disadvantage.”
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- China’s leader is spending several days in Russia next week for what China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said would be a “trip for peace.”
- China has called for a cease-fire and peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, along with releasing a vaguely worded proposal to end the fighting.
- China claims to be neutral in the war but has avowed a “no limits” friendship with Russia and has criticized the sanctions against Russia.
China's rising influence
President Xi’s trip to Russia comes days after Beijing brokered talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia to re-establish diplomatic ties.
“China has made no secret of fact that it wants to expand its influence around the world, whether that’s in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East,” Kirby said Friday.
The United States has been making its own efforts to counter China’s growing influence. On Monday, Biden joined the leaders of Australia and the United Kingdom to unveil a highly anticipated plan to modernize Australia’s submarine fleet as a counterweight to China’s military buildup.
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Lethal aid possible?
The upcoming meeting between Xi and Putin also follows warnings from Washington that China is considering providing lethal support to Russia.
Politico reported Thursday that between June and December of 2022, Chinese companies – one of them a state-owned defense contractor – shipped 1,000 assault rifles and other equipment with military use to Russian entities.
Kirby said the sales were part of “pre-existing, long-standing business transactions” between Chinese companies and the Russians. Nothing indicates those rifles are intended for use on the battlefield, he added.
But while there’s no sign Beijing has decided to provide lethal support to Russia, Kirby said, the administration also hasn’t seen indications they’ve taken that option off the table.
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No call set between Biden and Xi
Biden, who has stressed the importance of keeping the lines of communication open with Xi, last met with his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in November.
After the U.S. shot down Chinese spy balloon that flew through American airspace last month, Biden said he planned to speak with Xi.
Kirby said Friday that call has not yet been arranged.
Contributing: Associated Press.