Russia has asked China for military support and economic assistance, including drones, for the invasion of Ukraine, according to U.S. officials quoted by U.S. media, which would be a major change in the international geopolitical landscape arising from this war. According to these officials, quoted among other media by CNN and The New York Times, China may have already given a response and stated that if such assistance is given, it could change the “situation of forces” on the ground and be a counterweight to the harsh sanctions imposed on the Russian economy by the West.

The United States will try to persuade China on Monday not to supply arms to Russia at a high-level meeting in Rome that the White House considers vitally important not only for the war in Ukraine but also for the future of the global balance of power.

In a statement also quoted by CNN, Chinese embassy spokesman in Washington, Li Pengyu, said he had “never heard anything like that” and expressed concern about the “situation in Ukraine” and that it will continue to provide humanitarian aid to that country. Liu said “the priority now is to prevent the situation from becoming tense or getting out of control…. China calls for exercising maximum restraint and preventing a massive humanitarian crisis.”

U.S. officials, including White House press secretary Jen Psaki, have criticized Beijing’s response to Russia’s invasion with a neutral tone but coverage by Chinese media promoting Russian disinformation campaigns and calling the invasion a “special military operation.” U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan has already warned Beijing: “There will be consequences if there are efforts to evade sanctions or support Russia,” Sullivan said on CNN.

Key meeting in Rome

Security and foreign affairs representatives from the U.S. and Chinese governments will meet Monday in Rome to discuss the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on security in Europe and around the world, the White House said Sunday. The U.S. delegation will be led by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and the Chinese delegation by Foreign Affairs Commission Office director Yang Jiechi.

“We are informing Beijing directly, privately, that absolutely there will be consequences in the event that Russia is aided in its efforts to evade sanctions on a large scale or support them in countering them,” Sullivan said Sunday on CNN.

“We will not allow that to go forward and allow any country anywhere in the world to give Russia a lifeline in the face of economic sanctions,” added Sullivan, who did not refer to the request for military aid to China. Representatives of the U.S. and Chinese governments will also discuss efforts currently underway to manage competition between the two countries.

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