US secretary of state Antony Blinken said the US is “very concerned” China is considering supplying Russia with weapons and ammunition in Ukraine.
Blinken said he told Wang Yi, China’s top foreign policy official, that such support would have “serious consequences” for the US relationship with Beijing during a meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.
“What we’ve seen over the past years is of course some political and rhetorical support, even some nonlethal support. But we are very concerned that China is considering providing lethal support to Russia in its aggression against Ukraine,” Blinken told NBC News.
“I made clear that that would have serious consequences in our relationship as well, something that President Biden has shared directly with President Xi on several occasions.”
Blinken did not elaborate on the intelligence underpinning US concerns, but told NBC: “Some further information that we are sharing today and that I think will be out there soon . . . indicates that they are strongly considering providing lethal assistance to Russia.”
Blinken and Wang’s meeting in Munich was the first face-to-face interaction between top Washington and Beijing officials since the US shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that floated over North America this month.
“I made very clear to him that China’s sending a surveillance balloon over the United States in violation of our sovereignty, in violation of international law, was unacceptable and must never happen again,” Blinken told CBS News.
“It is safe to say there was no apology.”
China’s high altitude surveillance balloon programme had intruded into the airspace of more than 40 countries over five continents, the State department said.
The US suspects the balloon, which spent a week flying over the US and Canada, was used for surveillance — something that Beijing has denied.
Blinken added that the US is “not looking for a new Cold War”, a State department spokesman said in a statement after the meeting.
Earlier in the day, Wang used a speech at the Munich conference — attended by top officials from across the world — to criticise Washington for what he said was the “hysterical and absurd” US decision to shoot down the balloon.
“Across the globe there are many balloons from many countries. Do you want to shoot down every one of them?” he said. “It did not show that the US is strong. On contrary, it showed the opposite. We urge the US not to do such preposterous things in order to divert attention from its domestic problems.”
Western officials now believe the balloon may have drifted off its intended course.
Biden said this week that he aimed to speak with Chinese president Xi Jinping to “get to the bottom” of the incident, without specifying when.