Biden, Xi to speak Friday on Russia, Ukraine


US President Joe Biden will hold a call on Friday with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the White House said on Thursday, as the United States piles pressure on China not to provide support to Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.

“The two leaders will discuss managing the competition between our two countries as well as Russia’s war against Ukraine and other issues of mutual concern,” as part of an ongoing effort to keep lines of communication open, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

The call comes after White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan held seven hours of talks in Rome with Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi on Monday, warning Beijing not to support Russian President Vladimir Putin in his invasion of Ukraine. Asked which side requested the call, an administration official said it was mutually agreed in Rome.

US officials described those talks as “tough” and are still debating how to react if Xi gives Putin military or economic support.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which is in its fourth week, has killed hundreds of civilians, reduced cities to rubble and sparked a humanitarian crisis as millions flee the country.

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said this week the country was counting on China to help it withstand the blow to its economy from Western sanctions over Ukraine.

Officials of the United States and other countries have sought to emphasise in recent weeks that siding with Russia could carry consequences for trade flows and development of new technologies and could expose China to secondary sanctions.

“I think that the message to the Chinese right now is basically there are a variety of futures for the relationship. Some very dark, some more moderate,” Evan Medeiros, an Asia specialist in the Obama administration with close ties to the Biden administration who now teaches at Georgetown University, said during a webinar on Thursday hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

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