Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has warned China against supporting Russia in its war on Ukraine, saying doing that would bring on World War Three.
Zelenskiy’s remark, to German daily Die Welt, came as China said that the United States was in no position to make demands, after the top US diplomat warned his Chinese counterpart at the weekend against China providing weapons to Russia in its war in Ukraine.
“For us, it is important that China does not support the Russian Federation in this war,” Zelenskiy told Die Welt. “In fact, I would like it to be on our side. At the moment, however, I don’t think it’s possible.”
“But I do see an opportunity for China to make a pragmatic assessment of what is happening here,” he added. “Because if China allies itself with Russia, there will be a world war, and I do think that China is aware of that.”
Biden daring visit to Kiev
Zelenskiy’s comments follows a similar blunt warning by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday to top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi of serious consequences should China provide material support to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Blinken said in an interview after the two met that Washington feared that Beijing was considering supplying weapons to Moscow.
“There are various kinds of lethal assistance that they are at least contemplating providing, to include weapons,” Blinken said in an interview with NBC News, adding that Washington would soon release more details.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden made an unexpected and daring visit to Ukraine on Monday, that appeared designed to upstage Russia as the first anniversary of the war approaches.
The president had been scheduled to travel to Warsaw to meet with NATO allies in Eastern Europe, but reportedly opted to spend hours on a train to Kiev, where he met Zelenskiy to reaffirm the US commitment to Ukraine and announced a new round of $460 million in security assistance.
“One year later, Kyiv stands. Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. America stands with you and the world stands with you. Kyiv has captured a part of my heart,” Biden was quoted saying.
Zelensky described Biden’s arrival as “the most important visit in the history of Ukrainian-American relations” as the two leaders walked in the streets of the capital.
“It was risky and should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that Joe Biden is a leader who takes commitment seriously,” White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said.
Countries fuelling fire in Ukraine: China
Meanwhile, China’s new foreign minister Qin Gang said on Tuesday the country was “deeply worried” the Ukraine conflict could spiral out of control, and called on certain countries to stop “fuelling the fire” in an apparent dig at the United States.
Beijing, which last year struck a “no limits” partnership with Moscow, has refrained from condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“China is deeply worried that the Ukraine conflict will continue to escalate or even spiral out of control” Qin said in a speech at a forum held at the foreign ministry.
“We urge certain countries to immediately stop fuelling the fire,” he said in comments that appeared to be directed at the US, adding that they must “stop hyping up ‘today Ukraine, tomorrow Taiwan'”.
Qin’s comments came as Russia’s news agency TASS said China’s top diplomat Wang Yi was due to arrive in Moscow on Tuesday and ahead of a “peace speech” President Xi Jinping is expected to deliver on Friday, the anniversary of the Ukraine invasion.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said Wang’s visit to Russia would be an opportunity to further promote ties between the two countries.
“China is willing to take the opportunity to work with Russia to promote bilateral relations along the direction set by the two heads of state,” Wang Wenbin said at a regular news briefing.
Wang urges negotiated settlement
Also on Tuesday, China released a paper on the Global Security Initiative (GSI), Xi’s flagship security proposal which aims to uphold the principle of “indivisible security”, a concept endorsed by Moscow.
Russia has insisted that Western governments respect a 1999 agreement based on the principle of “indivisible security” that no country can strengthen its own security at the expense of others.
On Monday, Wang called for a negotiated settlement to the Ukraine war during a stopover in Hungary.
Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine has triggered one of the deadliest European conflicts since World War Two and the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
The European Union’s top foreign affairs official Josep Borrell on Monday warned against China sending arms to Russia, saying it would be a “red line”.
Any Chinese weapons supplies to Russia would risk a potential escalation of the Ukraine war into a confrontation between Russia and China on the one side and Ukraine and the US-led NATO military alliance on the other.
Beijing has repeatedly accused Washington of escalating the conflict by supplying weapons to Ukraine.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard