China says certain countries must stop ‘fueling the fire’ in Ukraine conflict

February 21, 2023 - 12:44 PM
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang walks after delivering a keynote speech during the "Lanting Forum" in Beijing, China, February 21, 2023. (Reuters/Thomas Peter)

 – China is “deeply worried” that the Ukraine conflict could spiral out of control, China‘s foreign minister Qin Gang said on Tuesday, and called on certain countries to stop “fueling the fire”.

Beijing, which last year struck a “no limits” partnership with Moscow, has refrained from condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The United States has warned of consequences if China provides military support to Russia, which Beijing says it is not doing.

“We urge certain countries to immediately stop fuelling the fire,” Qin said during a speech, referring to the Ukraine conflict and in comments that appeared to be directed at the United States.

“We stand firmly against any form of hegemony, against any foreign interference in China‘s affairs,” he said.

Also on Tuesday, China released a paper on the Global Security Initiative (GSI), President Xi Jinping‘s flagship security proposal which aims to uphold the principle of “indivisible security”, a concept endorsed by Russia.

On Monday, China‘s top diplomat Wang Yi called for a negotiated settlement to the Ukraine war during a stopover in Hungary ahead of a visit to Moscow.

The same day, U.S. President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv in a show of solidarity, promising $500 million worth of military aid to Ukraine and additional sanctions against Russian elites to be unveiled in full this week.

Beijing has refrained from condemning Moscow’s operation against Ukraine or calling it an “invasion” in line with the Kremlin, which describes the war as a “special military operation” designed to protect Russia’s own security.

Xi is expected to deliver a “peace speech” this week on the anniversary of the Feb. 24 Ukraine invasion.

‘Lethal weapons’

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Saturday that the United States was very concerned China is considering providing “lethal assistance” to Russia, which he told Wang “would have serious consequences in our relationship.”

“There are various kinds of lethal assistance that they are at least contemplating providing, to include weapons,” Blinken said in an interview with NBC News, adding that Washington would soon release more details.

The European Union’s top foreign affairs official Josep Borrell on Monday warned against China sending arms to Russia, saying it would be a “red line”, echoing statements from other European foreign ministers attending a meeting in Brussels.

Any Chinese weapons supplies to Russia would risk a potential escalation of the Ukraine war into a confrontation between Russia and China on the one side and Ukraine and the U.S.-led NATO military alliance on the other.

Beijing has repeatedly accused Washington of escalating the conflict by supplying weapons to Ukraine. On Sunday during a meeting with Blinken on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Wang said the U.S. “should promote a political solution to the crisis, instead of adding fuel to the fire”.

Xi has stood by Russian President Vladimir Putin, resisting Western pressure to isolate Moscow. Chinese-Russian trade has soared since the invasion of Ukraine, and Russia has sold Asian powers including China greater volumes of oil.—Reporting by Martin Pollard, Laurie Chen; Writing by Bernard Orr; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)