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The leaders were holding a secure call amid US concerns China could aid Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has told United States President Joe Biden during a secure video call that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is in “no one’s interest”, Chinese state TV has reported.
The call, which began shortly after 9:00am ET (1300 GMT) on Friday, was months in the making and follows the first virtual meeting between Biden and Xi in November. It comes amid US concerns that Beijing may come to Moscow’s aid – either in giving military equipment or in bypassing sanctions – in the increasingly brutal offensive in Ukraine.
“State-to-state relations cannot go to the stage of military hostilities,” state broadcaster CCTV reported Xi as telling Biden. “Peace and security are the most valued treasures of the international community.”
Prior to the exchange on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US president would make clear to Xi that China will bear responsibility if it supported Russia’s “aggression” and that Washington “will not hesitate to impose costs”.
He said Washington was concerned China was considering directly assisting Russia with military equipment for use in Ukraine – something Beijing has denied despite reports that Moscow has formally lodged the request.
Beijing, for its part, maintains close economic ties to both Kyiv and Moscow and has stressed Ukraine’s sovereignty while avoiding direct condemnation of Russia.
However, Chinese officials have also insisted that Russia has legitimate security concerns that need to be addressed and echoed Russian claims the US has been secretly working on biological weapons in Ukraine, a claim that has been rejected by the US and the United Nations.
Reporting from Washington, DC, Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett said “the West, and the United States specifically, has had this sense that China has really been trying to play both sides with regard to this conflict.”
“The West is hoping that they can really encourage China to use its economic might over Russia, its influence to try and even bring about a ceasefire in this conflict,” she said.
Meanwhile, speaking to MSNBC on Friday shortly before the call, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman called on Xi to tell Russian President Vladimir Putin “to end this war of choice, this war of carnage” in Ukraine.
She told CNN: “China needs to stand on the right side of history. It needs to ensure that it does not backfill, financially or in any other way, sanctions that have been imposed on Russia.”
But while Beijing remains tightly bound to the US and other Western economies, it remains unclear what leverage Biden has to employ in his appeal to Xi, Ross Feingolf, an Asia political risk analyst, told Al Jazeera.
“Especially keeping in mind that [Washington] does want China to buy more from the United States as well and fulfill the terms of the phase one trade agreement,” he added.
“This is a tough call literally and figuratively for Biden.”
The war in Ukraine began with a Russian offensive on February 24. The Russian bombardment has killed hundreds of civilians, reduced city areas to rubble and sparked a humanitarian crisis as millions flee the country.
Source: Al Jazeera