Joe Biden will warn Xi Jinping that the US is ready to retaliate if Beijing actively backs Russia in Ukraine in a call between US and Chinese leaders that could mark a pivotal moment in diplomacy surrounding the war.

The talks on Friday come as the Biden administration becomes increasingly concerned about China’s potential willingness to assist President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, which is entering its 23rd day with Russian land forces largely at a standstill. .

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Biden would “make clear that China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia’s aggression, and we will not hesitate to impose charges.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the call was an opportunity for Biden to see “where President Xi stands.”

According to local authorities, Russian missiles hit the outskirts of Lviv on Friday as a sign of Moscow’s willingness to extend its bombardment into western Ukraine.

Andriy Sadovyy, the city’s mayor, said the missiles hit an area near the airport, but no casualties were reported. The Ukrainian Air Force said Russia had fired six cruise missiles into the area from the Black Sea, two of which were destroyed by anti-aircraft missiles.

Western officials say Putin’s forces have made little progress this week in taking over territory as troops have been diverted to defend tense supply lines against what British intelligence described as “incessant Ukrainian counter-attacks”.

With Ukraine’s largest cities still out of Russian control, Putin’s forces have increasingly relied on heavy weapons and missile strikes to reduce resistance and destroy parts of civilian infrastructure. About 3.2 million Ukrainians have fled the country, representing about 7 percent of the population.

Blinken has warned there are no signs that Putin is “willing to quit” and has reiterated concerns that Russia is “setting the stage to use a chemical weapon” and falsely blaming Ukraine for the attack.

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As Russia tried to bolster its campaign, the Financial Times reported this week that Moscow had requested several categories of weapons, including drones, from Beijing. Blinken confirmed Washington was concerned that China was “considering helping Russia directly with military equipment” for use in Ukraine.

While Beijing publicly claims to take a neutral stance, the US is concerned that the country is getting closer to Russia.

China has also avoided describing the war as an “invasion”, referring instead to Ukraine’s “issue” or “crisis”. A foreign ministry official also met on Thursday with Andrey Denisov, Russia’s ambassador to Beijing, to discuss “counter-terrorism cooperation and security”.

“The absence of condemnation by China of what Russia is doing. † † flies in the face. † † of everything China stands for, including the basic principles of the UN Charter, including the basic principles of respect for the sovereignty of nations,” said Psaki. “The fact that China has not condemned what Russia is doing speaks volumes.”

The Biden administration is closely monitoring whether China is helping Russia circumvent sanctions the west has imposed on Putin and his regime.

At a meeting in Rome on Monday, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi that Beijing would have ramifications for saving Russia.

Xi and Putin issued a statement last month in which the leaders described their growing partnership as “no borders”.

China has called for talks between Kiev and Moscow and Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, indicated in early March that Beijing could play a role as a mediator after a meeting with Wang Yi, his Chinese counterpart.

But Beijing has resisted sanctions and has consistently blamed NATO and the EU for pressuring Putin ahead of the war. Chinese diplomats and state media have also echoed Russian misinformation reports that the US used Ukraine to research dangerous biological weapons.

Zhao Lijian, an official with China’s foreign ministry, told reporters on Thursday that the country’s “clear” goal was to work to de-escalate and end the conflict as quickly as possible.

The call is only the fourth interaction between Biden and Xi and follows their virtual meeting in November, when the US president told the Chinese leader the two had a responsibility to ensure competition did not “come into conflict.”

The White House concluded last fall that it was important for Biden to speak directly with Xi over concerns that messages to his top officials were not being properly relayed to the Chinese president.

Additional reporting by William Langley in Hong Kong

This post Joe Biden warns Xi Jinping of US retaliation if China actively supports Russia

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