In Beijing, Antony Blinken confronts China for 'driving' the Russian war

Blinken's visit yielded little progress on other contentious issues

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed concerns on Friday about Chinese support for the Russian military, one of several issues that threaten to sour the recent improvement in relations between the world's largest economies.

Blinken raised the issue during five-and-a-half hours of talks with China's top diplomat Wang Yi in Beijing, the latest high-level contact between the countries that has eased last year's acrimony.

“I reiterated our grave concerns that the People's Republic of China is providing components that fuel Russia's brutal war of aggression against Ukraine,” Blinken said at a news conference at the end of his visit Friday, using China's official name: the People's Republic China.

“China is the largest supplier of machine tools, microelectronics, nitrocellulose, which is crucial for making munitions and rocket fuels, and other dual-use items that Moscow uses to boost its defense industrial base.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu underlined the close relationship between Beijing and Moscow and met his Chinese counterpart Dong Jun on Friday. He said the two countries are working to strengthen their “strategic partnership in the defense sector”.

They met on the sidelines of a regional security meeting in Kazakhstan, where Shoigu said Russia and its allies in Asia should expand joint military exercises and counter what he called U.S. efforts to destabilize their neighbor.

Despite its “unrestricted” partnership with Moscow, China has refrained from supplying weapons for Russia's war in Ukraine, but Blinken said its supply of so-called dual-use goods “had a material effect in Ukraine” and increased the threat to Russia . poses for other countries in Europe.

Blinken did not respond when asked whether Washington would impose sanctions over Chinese support for Russia.

U.S. officials say such aid could damage the broader bilateral relationship, even as ties stabilize after the blow from then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan in 2022 and the U.S. takedown of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon in February 2023.

China has said it has not supplied weapons to any party, adding that it is “not a producer of or involved in the Ukraine crisis.” However, it said that normal trade between China and Russia should not be interrupted or restricted.

Keep the ship still

Blinken's visit made little progress on other contentious issues, including U.S. complaints about cheap Chinese exports and tensions over Taiwan and the South China Sea. Instead, both sides focused on pragmatic issues such as people-to-people exchanges.

In addition to his talks with Wang, Blinken met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who echoed Beijing's concerns that the United States was stifling its economic development.

“This is a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed, just like the first button of a shirt that needs to be straightened, so that the China-US relationship can truly stabilize, improve and progress,” Xi said.

Earlier, Wang told Blinken that the “giant ship” of China-US relations had been stabilized, “but the negative factors in the relationship are still increasing and increasing.”

Wang also said the US has taken “endless” measures to suppress China's economy, trade, science and technology, equating such steps to containment.

“And the relationship is confronted with all kinds of disruptions. China's legitimate development rights have been unreasonably suppressed and our core interests are facing challenges,” Wang told Blinken.

The agenda for the talks was set during the Biden-Xi summit in San Francisco in November and a follow-up call in April.

Defense aid for Taiwan

Hours before Blinken landed in China on Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed a bill that included $8 billion to counter China's military might, as well as billions in defense aid for Taiwan and $61 billion for Ukraine.

Wang said the US should not step on “red lines” related to sovereignty, security and development interests – an apparent reference to Taiwan, the democratically governed island that China claims as its own, and the disputed South China Sea.

Other issues discussed include artificial intelligence and the U.S. push for progress in curbing China's supply of chemicals used to make fentanyl.

Blinken, along with senior US officials focused on counter-narcotics cooperation with China, met with Chinese Public Security Minister Wang Xiaohong to discuss the fentanyl issue.

Blinken told the news conference that China has made some progress in this area, but said “more needs to be done.”

The two countries also agreed to hold their first talks on artificial intelligence in the coming weeks, he said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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