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Mike Brest, Defense Reporter

NextImg:China’s top diplomat visits Russia ahead of anniversary of Ukrainian invasion

China’s top diplomat arrived in Russia on Tuesday, just days after his U.S. counterpart accused Beijing of considering whether to provide Russia with "lethal aid" for its war in Ukraine, which is set to reach the one-year mark later this week.

Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday, according to Russian state media. While neither party has said whether Wang will meet with President Vladimir Putin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov left the possibility open on Monday.


Over the course of the war, China has sought to portray itself as a neutral party, despite its illicit Russian support and partnership.

Days ago, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China is "considering" taking on a more active role in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, including providing "lethal weapons."

"China’s having — trying to have it both ways," he said in an interview this weekend on Meet the Press. "Publicly, they present themselves as a country striving for peace in Ukraine, but privately, as I said, we’ve seen already over these past months the provision of non-lethal assistance that does go directly to aiding and abetting Russia’s war effort. And some further information that we are sharing today and that I think will be out there soon that indicates that they are strongly considering providing lethal assistance to Russia."

The top U.S. diplomat emphasized that Washington has not seen “them cross that line” of providing lethal aid to Russia, but that they “see them considering this.”

Blinken and Wang met last week on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, where Blinken "warned about the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia or assistance with systemic sanctions evasion," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a readout of the meeting.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in response to the claim that the U.S. is not in a position to dictate its relationship with Russia.

"The U.S. is the biggest source of weaponry for the battlefield in Ukraine. Just yesterday, the U.S. side announced a further $500 million worth of military aid to Ukraine. It makes people wonder what the U.S. is up to by falsely claiming that China is offering weapons, and whether the U.S. finds it conscionable to tell the world it wants peace and yet sit and watch its defense industry lining up their pocket,"
Wang stated.

Wang Yi's trip to Moscow could be a precursor for a meeting between Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who has been invited by the Russian leader to visit in the coming months. His visit comes just a day after President Joe Biden unexpectedly traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and reaffirm his support for Ukraine.

Blinken's warning that China may provide lethal aid is another example of the seemingly continuous fracturing of the U.S.-China relationship. U.S. officials have repeatedly warned in recent months that China's actions are becoming more aggressive, while the Pentagon has characterized the Chinese Communist Party as its "pacing challenge."


Blinken, in his meeting with Wang last week, addressed the Chinese surveillance balloon that floated over the continental U.S., more specifically over some sensitive military sights, which the military ultimately shot down once it reached the Atlantic Ocean. The military was able to collect debris from the downed balloon and is in the process of learning from it.

A national security council official told reporters last week that diplomatic channels were open between the two countries, but military channels were not. The Chinese declined a Pentagon request for a meeting between Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and PRC Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe on the day the military shot down the spy balloon, which Chinese officials decried as an overreaction.

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