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Ukraine war: at G7, Blinken seeks European support to pressure China over alleged support for Russia

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The United States urged European powers to increase pressure on China at a G7 foreign ministers meeting in Italy on Thursday, as Washington accuses Beijing of helping Russia’s military expansion.

The Americans hope in particular that European nations will pressure China to reduce military support for Russia, at a time when, according to Washington, Russian forces are gaining ground in Ukraine following the February 2022 invasion.
In addition to the United States, the G7 countries include Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Japan and Italy, which holds the presidency this year.
Chinese Premier Li Qiang, right, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Tuesday, in a photo released by Xinhua News Agency. Photo: Wang Ye / Xinhua via AP

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who arrived on the Italian resort island of Capri on Wednesday, raised his concerns during a working session devoted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a US diplomatic source.

China is “contributing to Russia’s ability to prosecute” the war in ways that threaten all of Europe, a senior US official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

“In creating this industrial base they are expanding Russia’s ability to produce equipment, produce munitions, and it ought to give one pause about what that capacity is going to be” later, he said.

There is a “growing awareness” of the challenges linked to China’s support and the warning is expected to appear in the final communique on Friday, the official added.

On Thursday, after meeting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Blinken stressed the “urgent” need to step up support for Ukraine, after another Russian strike on Wednesday left 18 people dead.

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The US House of Representatives is expected to vote on Saturday on new military aid including some US$61 billion in long-delayed support for Ukraine.

“This is a matter of death and life,” Kuleba said, adding that he would be working at the G7 meeting to secure more air defence support, which he said was of “fundamental importance”.

Washington has set a red line for Beijing – not to supply weapons to Russia for its war in Ukraine. And so far it has not presented proof that this has been crossed.

But the United States is increasingly denouncing what it says is China’s back-door support for Moscow.

The US pressure comes as Blinken prepares to visit China, a trip Washington says will come in the “coming weeks”.

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In Beijing on Tuesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he had asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to pressure Moscow to stop its “senseless” war in Ukraine.

The question of military support for Russia was also discussed in a recent conversation between US President Joe Biden and Xi.

A senior US official said last week that China was helping Russia undertake “its most ambitious defence expansion since the Soviet era and on a faster timeline than we believed possible” early in the Ukraine conflict.

Unveiling US findings, officials said China was helping Russia on a range of areas including the joint production of drones, space-based capabilities and exports vital for producing ballistic missiles.

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China has been the key factor in revitalising Russia’s defence industrial base, “which had otherwise suffered significant setbacks” since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a senior US official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Washington said that China provided more than 70 per cent of the US$900 million in machine tools – probably used to build ballistic missiles – imported in the last quarter of 2023 by Russia.

US officials also said 90 per cent of Russia’s microelectronics imports last year – used to produce missiles, tanks and aircraft – came from China.

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