China on Tuesday appeared to back Russian grievances over Ukraine and NATO following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition Monday of two separatist enclaves in the eastern part of the country, noting what it called Moscow’s “legitimate security concerns.”
Wang Wenbin, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, fielded inquiries from reporters on China’s position on the Ukraine crisis and repeatedly sidestepped questions about support for Russian actions that the U.S. and allies have condemned as an invasion and violation of Kyiv’s sovereignty.
“China’s position on the Ukraine issue is consistent,” Mr. Wang said. “The legitimate security concerns of any country should be respected, and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be jointly upheld.” Notably, China‘s state-controlled media was still not reporting the Russian military incursion hours after it happened the Ukrainian border.
Mr. Wang then stated that events in Ukraine are the result of delays in implementing the 2015 Minsk-2 agreement that sought to resolve the standoff in Ukraine‘s Donbas region.
“The situation in Ukraine is getting worse,” Mr. Wang said. “China once again calls on all parties to exercise restraint, appreciate the importance of implementing the principle of indivisible security, and de-escalate the situation and resolve differences through dialogue and negotiation.”
The spokesman fielded questions in Beijing before Russian military forces moved into eastern Ukraine on what Moscow described as a “peacekeeping” operation for the two new “republics” the Kremlin now recognizes.
Mr. Wang declined to say whether China recognizes Russia’s announced declaration Monday recognizing the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk enclaves. The spokesman also declined to say whether the Russian action violates the Minsk-2 protocol, which calls for a cease-fire in the Donbas as a political solution is negotiated.
Asked whether there are parallels between Russian assertions that Ukraine is not a separate nation and China’s claim that Taiwan is part of China, Mr. Wang merely repeated Beijing’s official line that Taiwan is part of China.
“We are closely following the latest developments in eastern Ukraine,” he added. China has a major trade and investment relations with Kyiv, which has signed up for China‘s global “Belt and Road” funding program.
Mr. Wang also said China respects all nations’ sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said Moscow’s action in recognizing the independence of two Ukrainian regions is inconsistent with the principles of the UN Charter, something China has said it supports.
Asked about that charter violation, Mr. Wang said China would continue to communicate with all parties in the Ukraine dispute and “act accordingly.”
China’s embassy in Kyiv has notified Chinese nationals and businesses in Ukraine to exercise caution.
Mr. Wang also sidestepped questions on whether China will support U.S. and European sanctions on Russia or would aid Russia in responding to sanctions.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry and the State Department confirmed that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had spoken by phone about the Russian incursion Tuesday, but offered few details on what they discussed.
The Chinese Communist Party-affiliated Global Times news website said in an editorial Tuesday that the United States shared the blame for the Ukraine crisis because of Washington’s “intensive containment on Russia, which finally forced Russia to try to realize its security demands” by recognizing the two Ukraine enclaves.
“China has no self-interest in the Ukraine issue. It has always upheld a fair and responsible attitude and will decide its own position based on the merits of the matter itself,” the outlet said in an editorial. “The development of the Ukraine situation is the result of a series of complex factors. Now that it has come to the brink of a cliff, all parties should work together to pull it back.”