- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2022

China’s government leaned further toward supporting Russia‘s military incursion into Ukraine on Thursday blaming the Eastern European conflict on U.S. arms transfers to Kyiv. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying also made clear that Beijing has not condemned the military invasion that kicked off Wednesday night, telling reporters China calls on all sides to “exercise restraint.” 

The spokeswoman also declined to characterize the Russian military operation as an invasion and said the current situation is the result of varying factors, citing in particular the provision of U.S. arms to the Ukrainian military. 

“The U.S. has been increasing tensions and hyping up war for some time,” Ms. Hua said. “Do you know how many arms and ammunition the U.S. has sent to Ukraine?” 

If the United States had done more to promote peace and respect Russia’s security worries, war could have been averted, she said. 

Asked if a sovereign state like Ukraine has a right to purchase arms, Ms. Hua said if two people were arguing and preparing to fight, should outsiders provide one side with a gun or knife, or should they try to break up the fight. 

“This is not the time to pour oil on the flame, but to put our heads together to come up with a way to put out the fire and safeguard peace,” she said. 

At the State Department, spokesman Ned Price called on China to use its influence to get Russia to back down from its military action, while noting a major strategy document endorsed by Mr. Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping just weeks ago. 

“To that end, of course, we’ve all read the 5,000-word [China-Russia] joint communique and we can glean our own conclusions from that,” Mr. Price said. “I think what gives us concern is that from that manifesto and from what we’ve seen not only in recent days, weeks and months, but in recent years is this growing partnership between Russia and the PRC.” 

China has not provided Russia with military arms and equipment, Ms. Hua said, and Beijing has not recognized Mr. Putin’s claim that two separatist enclaves inside Ukraine are now independent states.

“When we see the risk of conflict, we won’t do the same as the U.S., who has offered Ukraine with a large amount of military equipment,” Mr. Hua said. “I believe that as a strong country, Russia doesn’t need China or other countries to provide weapons to it.” 

Ms. Hua also said the United States fueled the invasion by stating an attack on Ukraine would take place Feb. 16 and Russia dismissed the claim as disinformation. 

The U.S. “false alarm,” she suggested, had become a reality, rather than the conflict being deterred. 

“Those who follow the U.S.’ lead in fanning up flames and then shifting the blame onto others are truly irresponsible,” Ms. Hua said. “As the culprit, the person who started the fire should think about how to put out the fire as soon as possible.” 

The comments are the clearest sign that China’s government, after vacillating between open support and private backing, is sticking with Mr. Putin in the crisis. 

At the White House, President Biden sidestepped a reporter’s question as to whether he is urging China to join the West in isolating Russia. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi discussed the Ukraine crisis over the weekend, just days before Mr. Putin invaded. 

“I’m not prepared to comment on that at the moment,” Mr. Biden said. 

The silence by the president suggests diplomatic efforts by the Biden administration to convince China not to support Russian aggression are still underway. China has significant trade and investment interests with Ukraine, which is a major supplier of grain to Beijing

China’s stated foreign policy is based on respecting foreign nations’ sovereignty and not interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, a policy Mr. Wang said that applies to Ukraine as well. 

The policy is being tested by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s operation to attempt to bring Ukraine under Russian control. 

China will play a key role in efforts to pressure the Putin administration with crippling economic sanctions. Beijing could provide vital economic support and relief for the Kremlin that could prevent the Russian economy from collapsing. 

The Foreign Ministry‘s Ms. Hua said U.S. officials should study the joint Russian-Chinese statement more carefully. 

China and Russia aim to strengthen strategic communication and coordination, firmly uphold the international system with the U.N.’s central coordinating role in international affairs, and firmly safeguard the international order based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and international law,” she stated. 

Asked about trade, Ms. Hua said China would “continue to carry out normal trade cooperation with Russia and Ukraine in the spirit of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit.” 

“We want peace in Ukraine and do not want to see the situation in Ukraine evolve to what it is today. We call on all parties to ease tension through dialogue and exercise restraint,” she said. “In the meantime, we have to bear in mind that everything happens for a reason. Not only the symptom but also the root cause should be addressed, which calls for the joint efforts of all parties concerned.”

• Bill Gertz can be reached at bgertz@washingtontimes.com.

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