Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, will travel to Rome on Monday to meet Yang Jiechi, China’s top foreign policy official, in talks that are expected to focus on the war in Ukraine, the highest level US-China face-to-face meeting since the Russian invasion began.
The White House said Mr Sullivan would lead a delegation of National Security Council and state department officials for what would be only his third meeting with Yang since the Biden administration took office in January last year.
“This meeting is taking place in the context of Russia’s unjustified and brutal war against Ukraine and as China has aligned itself with Russia to advance their own vision of the world order,” said one person familiar with the agenda, adding that they would discuss the impact of the Russian invasion on “regional and global security”.
The “war in Ukraine will certainly be a significant topic of conversation”, said the person. “It is important for PRC [People’s Republic of China] officials to hear directly from the [US] national security adviser.”
Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Mr Sullivan said that while China “was aware” that Putin was “planning something”, Beijing “may not have understood the full extent of it”. He added: “It’s very possible that Putin lied to them the same way that he lied to Europeans and others.”
On NBC, Mr Sullivan also warned China against any steps to “bail out” Russia or make it easier for them to circumvent western sanctions.
“We will ensure that neither China, nor anyone else, can compensate Russia for these losses. In terms of the specific means of doing that, again, I’m not going to lay all of that out in public, but we will communicate that privately to China, as we have already done and will continue to do,” he said.
Emily Horne, NSC spokeswoman, said Mr Sullivan and Yang, who have met twice over the past year, would also discuss efforts to manage competition between the US and China. The person familiar with the situation said the Rome talks were a follow-on meeting from president Joe Biden and president Xi Jinping’s virtual meeting in November.
The meeting comes as Beijing and Washington remain at odds over a wide range of issues. Over the past year, Mr Biden has implemented policies that have maintained the tough stance struck by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
The Chinese embassy said it had “no information to offer” about the Rome meeting. The discussions come at a pivotal time as Washington grows increasingly alarmed over China’s relationship with Russia, which has been starkly illustrated by its refusal to condemn the invasion and willingness to place the blame on the US and Nato.
China continues to insist it is a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, but is also increasingly vocal in its support of Moscow’s justifications for its actions.
Earlier this week Chinese diplomats and state media called for the investigation of Russian accusations that the US supported biological warfare research in Ukraine. The US has ridiculed the claims as “preposterous” and warned that Russia might be prepared to use chemical weapons in Ukraine.
Beijing has also parroted Moscow in citing Nato’s eastward expansion in recent decades as a catalyst for the war, and condemned US-led sanctions against the Putin regime as part of a larger effort to contain Russia and China.
Ms Horne said Mr Sullivan would also meet Luigi Mattiolo, a top adviser to Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, as part of US efforts to co-ordinate a “strong, united international response to President Putin’s war of choice”. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022