The United States has “deep concerns” about “alignment” between Russia and China, a senior US official said Monday after high-ranking US and Chinese officials met for seven hours on the Ukraine war and other security issues.
“We do have deep concerns about China’s alignment with Russia,” the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity and adding: “It was a very candid conversation.”
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Yang Jiechi, the Chinese Communist Party’s chief diplomat, met in a Rome hotel for what a White House readout described as a “substantial discussion.”
The White House said the two officials also “underscored the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between the United States and China.”
Moscow and Beijing have drawn closer in what Washington sees as an increasingly hostile alliance of the authoritarian nuclear powers.
Sullivan’s meeting with the top Chinese diplomat was planned weeks ago, officials say, but the encounter took on new importance against the backdrop of President Vladimir Putin’s onslaught against Ukrainian cities.
The officials were also meeting a day after US media reported that Russia has asked China for military and economic assistance as its troops struggle to make ground in Ukraine and its economy faces devastation from Western sanctions.
According to The New York Times, citing unnamed US officials, Moscow also asked Beijing for economic assistance, but there were no details on the request or whether China had responded.
China has so far sent mixed signals on Russia’s bloody invasion. Beijing does not back Western sanctions, but Washington hopes the giant Chinese economy will at least not attempt to rescue Russia from potential default or send weaponry.
“We’ve communicated very clearly to Beijing, that we won’t stand by,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. “We will not allow any country to compensate Russia for its losses.”
Beijing refused to directly address the reports, instead accusing Washington of maliciously spreading “disinformation” over China’s role in the Ukraine war.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told journalists Monday that China had “played a constructive role in urging peace and calling for negotiations.”
The senior US official told reporters that in addition to Ukraine, Sullivan and Yang discussed North Korea, which is ramping up missile tests, and tension over Taiwan, which is run as an independent country but is claimed by China.
The official described the talks as reflecting the “intensity” of the current atmosphere and that it was important to have “a candid, direct exchange of views.”
“We believe that it is important to keep open lines of communication between the United States and China, especially on areas where we disagree,” the official said.