U.S. President Joe Biden will hold a call on Friday with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, as Washington warned China was considering military support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a step that would dramatically widen the gulf between Beijing and Western governments.
The call, first announced by the White House on Thursday, comes at a pivotal moment in U.S.-China relations and in Ukraine, where heavily outnumbered local forces have prevented Moscow from capturing any of the country’s biggest cities so far.
The Biden administration has issued public and private warnings that Beijing would face dire consequences if it provides material support to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war.
“President Biden will be speaking to President Xi tomorrow and will make clear that China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia’s aggression, and we will not hesitate to impose costs,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a news briefing.
Blinken said China had a responsibility to use its influence with Putin and to defend international rules, but that it appeared Beijing was “moving in the opposite direction.”
“We’re concerned that they’re considering directly assisting Russia with military equipment to use in Ukraine,” he said, officially confirming for the first time reports earlier in the week that U.S. officials believed China had signaled its willingness to provide Moscow with such support.