Xi’s Russia trip reduced chance of nuclear war, says EU foreign policy chief

The Chinese president’s trip to Moscow this month has made the world safer, reducing the chance that Vladimir Putin will use nuclear weapons, according to the EU’s foreign policy chief.

Josep Borrell told reporters that President Xi Jinping had made it “very, very clear” to the Russian leader that he should not deploy nuclear weapons, citing China’s peace 12-point Ukraine peace plan, which condemned their use.

“One important thing is this visit reduces the risk of nuclear war and they [the Chinese] have made it very, very clear,” Borrell said.

“The president wants to minimise the risk of being associated with the Russian military intervention,” he added. “They are not engaged militarily and there is no sign that they want to engage militarily.”

Despite warnings from the US that Beijing is planning to send weapons to its ally, Borrell said that there was no evidence. “They have not crossed any red lines,” he said, adding that China was not “fully aligned with Russia”.

He said the solution to the conflict proposed by China, which has been dismissed by the US, was not sufficient to solve the conflict but was not entirely pro-Moscow.

However, the Spaniard did accuse China of “taking advantage of the situation” along with India. China was offering “economic support” by buying Russian oil at low prices, he said, adding: “It’s a good business for them. You cannot expect China to stop buying Russian oil.”

Borrell said he would travel to China “soon”. His visit would follow those of three other senior EU figures. Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s prime minister, will travel to China next week; French president Emmanuel Macron will follow him the week after, and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will accompany him for part of the trip.

Several EU member states have criticised the individual visits following a controversial visit by German chancellor Olaf Scholz in December. Krišjānis Kariņš, Latvia’s prime minister, said it allowed China to “divide and rule”.

But Macron on Friday defended his trip. Speaking to reporters after a European summit, he said he would “co-ordinate” with EU partners. “We have a European common view to engage China to the maximum,” he said, adding that the EU spoke with a “united voice”. 

Although China was not on the agenda at the two-day summit in Brussels “it was in the background of, I would say, almost all topics”, said an EU official.

That person said the EU was pushing Xi to speak to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy as well as Putin.

“What we think is positive is that China is at least engaging . . . But I think what we are pressing and we have insisted a lot is that they do it both ways, with Russia but also Ukraine.”

Charles Michel, president of the European Council of EU leaders, will not travel to China with von der Leyen and Macron. He was focusing on a potential EU summit with China, the official said.

A date had not yet been set for that summit, the official said, but it might take place before July. “It’s up to China to propose a new date,” they said.

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