China has advised the US that it wishes all parties involved in Ukraine to remain calm and avoid raising tensions, while the US has emphasized de-escalation and warned of the security and economic concerns posed by Russian aggression.
On a late Wednesday phone discussion, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed Ukraine.
“We call on all parties to remain calm and abstain from doing anything that raise emotions and hype up the problem,” Wang told Blinken, according to a statement from China’s foreign ministry.
Russia, which has been bolstering its military along Ukraine’s borders for months, has requested that NATO withdraw soldiers and weaponry from eastern Europe and ban Ukraine, a former Soviet state, from joining the alliance.
The US and its NATO members disagree, but say they are willing to address other issues including as weapons limitation and confidence-building measures.
“Secretary Blinken… emphasized to Wang that de-escalation and diplomacy are the appropriate route ahead,” Blinken was reported as saying in a statement published by the US State Department.
Global security and the economic concerns presented by additional Russian action against Ukraine were discussed, according to the department.
Wang, apparently referring to Russia’s objections to NATO’s expansion in eastern Europe, told Blinken that one country’s security could not be at the expense of the security of others and regional security could not be guaranteed by strengthening or even expanding military blocs, his ministry said.
The United States has warned Russia not to invade Ukraine and urged both countries to return to a set of pacts known as Minsk I and Minsk II signed in 2014 and 2015, respectively, to end a separatist war by Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine.
But a series of military and political steps set out by the later Minsk II agreement remain unimplemented, with Russia’s insistence that it is not a party to the conflict and therefore is not bound by its terms being a major blockage.
“To resolve the Ukrainian issue, we still need to return to the new Minsk Agreement – the starting point,” said Wang.
“The new Minsk agreement, which was approved by the Security Council, is a fundamental political document recognised by all parties and should be effectively implemented. As long as efforts are made in line with the direction and spirit of the agreement, China will support them.”
China has been strengthening ties with Russia as tension between China and the United States has been growing over a range of issues, from trade to human rights, Taiwan and China’s maritime claims.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, against whom the United States has threatened personal sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine, is expected to visit China next week for the Winter Olympics, which begin on Feb. 4.
Wang told Blinken that the United States “continues to make mistakes in its words and deeds on China, causing new shocks to the relationship”.
“The top priority at the moment is that the U.S. should stop interfering with the Beijing Winter Olympics, stop playing with fire on the Taiwan issue, and stop creating various anti-China cliques,” he said, according to the foreign ministry.
The United States, Canada, Australia and Britain have announced they will not send any state officials to the Games because of China’s human rights record. China has denied rights abuses and rejected what it calls the politicization of sport.