Biden administration officials voiced concerns on Thursday about China considering assisting Russia with military equipment amid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We’re concerned that they’re considering directly assisting Russia with military equipment to use in Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a news conference at the State Department.
“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,” Blinken said.
At the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that it is a “high” and “significant” concern among officials that China may try to supply Russia with military assistance.
“Certainly, our concerns about China assisting in any way Russia as they invade a foreign country is of significant concern and the response to that would be consequences,” Psaki added.
Biden is slated to phone Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday to discuss Russia’ invasion of Ukraine and other issues, marking the first phone call between the two leaders since November.
Reports emerged earlier this week that Russia was seeking assistance from China as it wages a war against Ukraine, but the comments from Blinken and Psaki were the first in which officials publicly said China was considering the ask.
While Biden administration officials have warned China publicly and privately there would be consequences if it helps Russia, they have declined to specify what penalties Beijing would face.
“I’m just not going to outline what the consequences will look like,” Psaki said Thursday, but she offered that Biden will “speak directly about that” in the call with Xi on Friday.
The call between the two leaders was mutually agreed to, she said, following a meeting between White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, on Monday in Rome.
During that meeting, Sullivan told his Chinese counterpart there would be consequences if Beijing aided Moscow in its war effort, officials said earlier this week.
China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said during a call with his Spanish counterpart this week that the country wants to avoid U.S. sanctions and insisted that China “is not a party to this crisis.”