The US is warning China against material and security assistance to Russia in Moscow’s war on Ukraine, drawing Washington’s red line ahead of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing early next month.
On Tuesday, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary for China Michael Chase spoke with Song Yanchao, deputy director of China’s Office of International Military Cooperation in the Central Military Commission, according to a U.S. official who spoke to VOA on condition of anonymity.
This week’s military-to-military talks come as the United States closely monitors any decision by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in response to Russian requests for security assistance. The US official noted reports of several visits to China by Russian transport aircraft.
“I don’t have a new assessment to offer,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told VOA last week when asked if it was still Washington’s assessment that Beijing is not providing security assistance to Russia.
“If we see China taking steps to systemically help Russia avoid sanctions, of course there will be costs,” Price said.
Tuesday’s two-hour talks came after China rejected a US offer of military de-confliction talks between US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe earlier this month.
During a press conference at the State Department after the 2+2 talks between the US and Japan last week, Austin said he has asked his Chinese counterpart to meet the US “halfway” and keep “open lines of communication” to avoid miscalculations.
Wei will retire in March. Li Shangfu, a new member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Military Commission (CM), is widely seen as China’s next minister of national defense.
Li was sanctioned by the US government in 2018 over Chinese purchases of advanced Russian fighter jets and missile systems. But the US sanctions would not prevent Li from holding official meetings with US officials, according to a State Department official.
During Tuesday’s talks, the US official told VOA that China also raised concerns about a potential visit to Taiwan by new US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy said last year he would visit Taiwan if he became House speaker, a move that would anger China.
China claims sovereignty over the self-governing democracy, a claim rejected by Taiwan.
US diplomats and military officials have pointed out that the House of Representatives operates independently of the Biden administration and warned China against an overreaction near the Taiwan Strait that could lead to an “unintended” military accident.
“We cannot hold our foreign policy hostage to things that China may or may not do,” said a senior State Department official.