China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi says Beijing wants to avoid being impacted by U.S. sanctions over Russia’s war with Ukraine.
“China is not a party to the crisis, nor does it want the sanctions to affect China,” Wang said Monday during a call with Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares to discuss the crisis in Ukraine.
“China has the right to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests.”
His comments are seen as one of Beijing’s most explicit statements yet on the unprecedented barrage of international sanctions imposed against Russia’s corporate and financial system. The measures came in response to the Kremlin’s full-scale offensive of Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24.
The White House has warned China not to provide Russia with an economic lifeline as the Kremlin steps up its onslaught on Ukraine. The U.S. says it fears China, a key strategic ally of Moscow, may seek to cushion the impact of measures designed to destroy Russia’s economy if the war continues.
There are concerns among market participants that Chinese companies could soon become embroiled in financial penalties after reports that Moscow had asked Beijing for assistance to support its Ukraine invasion.
China has denied these reports, while Russia has said it did not request military aid from Beijing.
Since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Beijing has refused to call it an invasion and said China would maintain normal trade with both countries. China has not joined the U.S., EU and other countries’ sanctions on Russia.
Officials from the U.S. and China met on Monday to discuss a range of bilateral issues, including Russia’s war with Ukraine. The talks, which were held in Rome, Italy, spanned 7 hours and were described as “intense” by one senior administration official.
The U.S. has warned of consequences for any country that provides Russia with support amid the Kremlin’s war with Ukraine.
“We are watching very closely to the extent to which the PRC [People’s Republic of China] or any country in the world provides support material, economic, financial, rhetorical otherwise, to this war of choice that President [Vladimir] Putin is waging against the government of Ukraine, against the state of Ukraine and against the people of Ukraine,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a press briefing on Monday.
“We have been very clear both privately with Beijing and publicly with Beijing that there would be consequences for any such support,” Price said.
Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Sunday that the Kremlin was counting on China to help it withstand the fallout from global economic measures imposed against Moscow, Reuters reported.
In speaking with Spain’s Albares, China’s Wang reaffirmed Beijing’s long-held stance of opposing unilateral sanctions outside of the United Nations.
“China always opposes the use of sanctions to solve problems, and even more opposes unilateral sanctions that have no basis in international law, which will undermine international rules and bring harm to the people’s livelihood of all countries,” Wang said.
— CNBC’s Amanda Macias & Weizhen Tan contributed to this report.