US, China Officials to Meet as Tensions Mount Over Russia


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“Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda”

President
Joe Biden is sending his national security adviser for talks with a senior
Chinese official in Rome on Monday as concerns grow that China is amplifying
Russian disinformation in the Ukraine war and may help Russia evade punishment
from economic sanctions.

The
talks between National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and senior Chinese
foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi will center on “efforts to manage the
competition between our two countries and discuss the impact of Russia’s war
against Ukraine on regional and global security,” said Emily Horne,
speaking for the White House National Security Council.

The
White House has accused Beijing of spreading false Russian claims that Ukraine
was running chemical and biological weapons labs with U.S. support. U.S.
officials said China was attempting to provide cover for a potential biological
or chemical weapons attack on Ukrainians by the Russian military.

Sullivan said on
NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that when Russia starts accusing
other countries of preparing to launch biological or chemical attacks,
“it’s a good tell that they may be on the cusp of doing it
themselves.”

 

He also said China
and other countries should not try to help Russia work around the sanctions and
the U.S. has made it clear that other countries should not bail out the Russian
economy. “We will ensure that neither China nor anyone else can compensate
Russia for these losses,” Sullivan said.

 

The striking
accusations about Russian disinformation and Chinese complicity came after
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova alleged with no evidence
that the U.S. was financing Ukrainian chemical and biological weapons labs.

 

The Russian claim was
echoed by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, who claimed there
were 26 bio-labs and related facilities in “which the U.S. Department of
Defense has absolute control.” The United Nations has said it has received
no information backing up such accusations.

 

White House press
secretary Jen Psaki last week called the claims “preposterous.”

 

“Now that Russia
has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda,
we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or
biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them,”
Psaki tweeted Wednesday night. “It’s a clear pattern.”

 

Sullivan, who
appeared on several of the Sunday news shows before his trip, told “Face
the Nation” on CBS that the Russian rhetoric on chemical and biological
warfare is an indicator that in fact the Russians are getting ready to do it
and try and pin the blame elsewhere and nobody should fall for that.”

 

The international
community for years has assessed that Russia has used chemical weapons in
carrying out assassination attempts against Putin detractors such as Alexei
Navalny and former spy Sergei Skripal. Russia also supports the Assad
government in Syria, which has used chemical weapons against its people in a
decade-long civil war.

 

Testifying before the
Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, CIA Director William Burns also
noted grave concern that Russia might be laying the groundwork for a chemical
or biological attack of its own, which it would then blame on the U.S. or
Ukraine in a false flag operation.

 

“This is
something, as all of you know very well, is very much a part of Russia’s
playbook,” he said. “They’ve used these weapons against their own
citizens, they’ve at least encouraged the use in Syria and elsewhere, so it’s
something we take very seriously.”

 

China has been one of
few countries to avoid criticizing the Russians for its invasion of Ukraine.
China’s Xi Jinping hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin for the opening of
the Winter Olympics in Beijing, just weeks before Russia launched the Feb. 24
invasion.

 

During Putin’s visit
to China last month, the two leaders issued a 5,000-word statement declaring
“no limits” in the friendship between the two countries.

 

The Chinese abstained
on U.N. votes censuring Russia and has criticized economic sanctions against
Moscow. It has expressed its support for peace talks and offered its services
as a mediator, despite questions about its neutrality and scant experience
mediating international conflict.

 

Chinese officials
have also said Washington shouldn’t be able to complain about Russia’s actions
because the U.S. invaded Iraq under false pretenses. The U.S. claimed to have
evidence Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction though none
was ever found.

 

For Russia, China
could be a crucial economic partner in mitigating the severe sanctions levied
by the U.S, Britain, the 27-national European Union and other countries, though
there are questions as to how far Beijing will go to alienate the alliance and
put its own economy at risk.

 

The Biden
administration is looking to impress on China that any efforts to ease
sanctions for Russia could have ramifications for its relations with the United
States and Western allies.

 

On CNN’s “State
of the Union,” Sullivan said Sunday that the administration believes China
knew that Putin “was planning something” before the invasion of
Ukraine. But Sullivan said the Chinese government “may not have understood
the full extent of it because it’s very possible that Putin lied to them the
same way that he lied to Europeans and others.”

 

Sullivan and Yang last
met for face-to-face talks in Switzerland, where Sullivan raised the Biden
administration’s concerns about China’s military provocations against Taiwan,
human rights abuses against ethnic minorities and efforts to squelch
pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong.

 

That meeting set the
stage for a three-hour long virtual meeting in November between Biden and Xi.

 

Sullivan is also to
meet Luigi Mattiolo, diplomatic adviser to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi,
while in Rome.

VOA


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