Blinken raises concerns with China’s Wang Yi over Russia alignment

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NUSA DUA, Indonesia, July 9 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday he had discussed Russian aggression in Ukraine during more than five hours of talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in which he raised concerns over Beijing’s alignment with Moscow.

Blinken was speaking at a news conference after his first in-person discussions with Wang since October, a day after attending a meeting of G20 foreign ministers on the Indonesian island of Bali. 

“I shared again with the state councillor that we are concerned about the PRC’s alignment with Russia,” said Blinken, referring to the People’s Republic of China. He said did not think China was behaving in a neutral way as it had supported Russia in the United Nations and “amplified Russian propaganda”. 

Blinken said Chinese President Xi Jinping had made it clear in a call with President Vladimir Putin on June 13 that he stood by a decision to form a partnership with Russia.

Shortly before Russia’s Feb. 24 Ukraine invasion, Beijing and Moscow announced a “no limits” partnership, although. U.S. officials have said they have not seen China evade tough U.S.-led sanctions on Russia or provide it with military equipment.

U.S. officials have warned of consequences including sanctions should China offer material support for the war that Moscow calls a “special military operation” to degrade the Ukrainian military. Kyiv and its Western allies say the invasion is an unprovoked land grab.

Blinken declined to characterise Wang’s response in Saturday’s talks but described the discussions as “useful, candid and constructive”. 

Wang did not hold a news conference after his meeting with Blinken and China’s foreign ministry did not immediately comment.

U.S. officials had said before the talks that the meeting was aimed at keeping the difficult U.S.-China relationship stable and preventing it from veering inadvertently into conflict. 

Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping are expected to speak again in coming weeks, Blinken said.

Speaking ahead of the talks, Wang told reporters: “China and the United States are two major countries, so it is necessary for the two countries to maintain normal exchanges”.

“At the same time, we do need to talk together to ensure that this relationship will continue to move forward along the right track,” Wang said.

Daniel Russel, a top U.S. diplomat for East Asia under former President Barack Obama who has close contact with Biden administration officials, said ahead of the talks a key aim for the meeting would be to explore the possibility of an in-person meeting between Biden and Xi, their first as leaders, possibly on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Bali in November. 

The United States calls China its main strategic rival and is concerned it might one day attempt to take over the self-ruled democratic island of Taiwan, just as Russia attacked Ukraine.

Despite their rivalry, the world’s two largest economies remain major trading partners, and Biden has been considering scrapping tariffs on a range of Chinese goods to curb surging U.S. inflation before November midterm elections, with control of Congress in focus. 

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom Stanley Widianto; Additional reporting by Ryan Woo in Beijing; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Robert Birsel and William Mallard)

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