Joe Biden has said he did not think China would send weapons to Russia to help its military campaign in Ukraine, in comments that appeared to undercut claims from his top officials that Beijing was considering the idea.
In an interview with ABC television on Friday that was aired on the evening of the anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the US president suggested that he was less concerned about assertions — which have come from secretary of state Antony Blinken and other senior officials — that China was considering providing arms to bolster Russia’s military.
“I don’t anticipate a major initiative on the part of China providing weaponry to Russia,” Biden said in an interview at the White House.
While Biden said he did not expect China to send weapons, he warned that he “would respond” if Beijing did so. But the president’s level of concern appeared lower than top members of his administration who over the past week have suggested that China was seriously considering sending arms to Russia.
Speaking last weekend after meeting Wang Yi, China’s top foreign policy official, on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Blinken told NBC television that he was very worried about possible Chinese assistance.
“Some further information that we are sharing today and that I think will be out there soon . . . indicates that they are strongly considering providing lethal assistance to Russia,” Blinken told the television network.
Blinken said he told Wang there would be “serious consequences” if China sent weapons.
Blinken’s warning came 11 months after the US last asserted that China was considering providing arms to Russia in the wake of President Xi Jinping and President Vladimir Putin signing a “no limits” partnership weeks before the invasion of Ukraine.
In the months that followed, administration officials said China had been preparing to send weapons but reversed course following US warnings.
In a separate interview with CBS News last weekend, Blinken said China had provided “non-lethal” support to Russia for use in Ukraine and was now considering the provision of “lethal support”.
Despite Blinken claiming that the information would be “out there soon”, the White House has provided no public evidence to back up the claims.
Asked on Friday why the US had not released any evidence after the emphasis that officials had put on the issue, John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesperson, did not elaborate.
“I just don’t have any intelligence to speak to today,” Kirby responded, before adding: “I am not going to address it any further than that.”
The Biden administration on Friday placed five Chinese groups on the “entity list” blacklist — which effectively bars companies from providing the groups with American technology — for their alleged role in providing assistance to the Russian military. The action was part of a big package that targeted almost 300 individuals and groups.
In a co-ordinated move with the G7, the US warned that there would be “severe costs” for any country that helped Russia evade sanctions.
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