A US official said Russia had asked China for military equipment to use in its invasion of Ukraine.
The request comes amid tensions over the ongoing war ahead of a Monday meeting in Rome between top aides to the US and Chinese governments.
Ahead of the talks, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan bluntly warned China to avoid helping Russia evade global sanctions that have hit the Russian economy. “We will not allow this to continue,” he said.
The prospect of China offering financial aid to Russia is one of President Joe Biden’s many concerns. A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues, said that in recent days Russia had requested support from China, including military hardware, to advance its ongoing war with Ukraine.
The official did not provide details on the scope of the request. The request was first reported by the Financial Times and the Washington Post.
The Biden administration also accuses China of spreading Russian disinformation that could be used as a pretext for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces to attack Ukraine with chemical or biological weapons.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has placed China in a delicate situation with two of its main trading partners: the United States and the European Union. China needs access to these markets, but it has also shown its support for Moscow, joining Russia in declaring a “boundless” friendship.
In his talks with senior China foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi, Sullivan will indeed be looking for limits to what Beijing will do for Moscow.
“I’m not going to sit here publicly and make threats,” he told CNN in a series of interviews that aired on Sunday.
“But what I will tell you is that we are communicating directly and privately to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences” if China helps Russia “compensate” for its sanctions losses.
“We will not allow this to continue and for there to be a lifeline for Russia from these economic sanctions from any country in the world,” he said.
In brief comments on the talks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian did not mention Ukraine, saying “the key issue of this meeting is to implement the important consensus reached by the heads of state of China and the United States during their virtual summit in November last year.” ”.
The White House said the talks will focus on the direct impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on regional and global security.
Biden administration officials say Beijing is spreading false Russian claims that Ukraine ran chemical and biological weapons labs with US backing.
They say China is effectively providing cover if Russia pursues a biological or chemical weapons attack on the Ukrainians.
When Russia starts accusing other countries of preparing to launch biological or chemical attacks, Sullivan told NBC’s Meet the Press: “It’s a good idea that they’re about to do that. themselves.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on ABC’s This Week said, “We haven’t seen anything that would indicate any kind of imminent chemical or biological attack at this time, but we’re monitoring it very, very closely. “
White House increasingly fears China is siding with Russia in war on Ukraine in hopes of advancing Beijing’s ‘world order vision’ in the long run, person says familiar with the thinking of the administration.
The person was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The international community believed Russia had used chemical weapons in an attempt to assassinate Mr Putin’s critics such as Alexei Navalny and former spy Sergei Skripal.
Russia also supports the Assad government in Syria, which has used chemical weapons against its people during a decade of civil war.
China was one of the few countries to avoid criticizing the Russians for its invasion of Ukraine. Chinese leader Xi Jinping hosted Mr Putin for the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, just three weeks before the Russian invasion on February 24.
During Mr. Putin’s visit, the two leaders issued a 5,000-word statement declaring a friendship without limits.
The Chinese abstained in UN votes censuring Russia and criticized economic sanctions against Moscow. He expressed his support for the peace talks and offered his services as a mediator, despite questions about his neutrality and little experience in mediating international conflicts.