China’s foreign minister has said today that it is “concerned about the damage done to civilians” in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, pulling Beijing’s position on the war into question.
Six days into the conflict, Russian president Vladimir Putin has been accused of war crimes for indiscriminately targeting civilians, residential areas and hospitals.
Speaking to his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi described the invasion as a “deteriorating situation”. While Kuleba said he “looked forward to China’s mediation efforts for the ceasefire”.
China – a key ally of Russia – called on both countries to find a solution through negotiations.
However, it reiterated support for Russia’s position against Ukraine joining NATO, saying “regional security cannot be achieved by expanding military blocs”.
In early February, China and Russia urged against NATO expanding across Europe, as the threat of a Russian invasion loomed.
A joint declaration signed by Chinese president Xi Jinping and Putin at the time said: “The sides oppose further enlargement of NATO and call on the North Atlantic Alliance to abandon its ideologies Cold War approach.”
On the pair’s relations amid increasing scrutiny from the West, Xi and Putin agreed that “they have indeed become unprecedented. It’s an example of dignified relations that support mutual development”.
In the statement, Xi also called for Taiwan to be recognised as a part of China – which he claims is a part of the territory.
It is not yet known whether China will step up to the plate and help mediate reconciliation between Russia and Ukraine.
Though there are fears that Russia’s invasion might prompt the same response from China for Taiwan.
China and Taiwan relations
The US today strengthened its support for the neighbouring island, with president Joe Biden sending a delegation of former US officials to meet Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen.
Former chairman of the join chiefs of staff, Mike Mullen said the US “will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo”.
Ing-wen told the delegation: “History teaches us that if we turn a blind eye to military aggression, we only worsen the threat to ourselves.
“The Ukrainian people’s commitment to protect their freedom and democracy, and their fearless dedication to defending their country have been met with deep empathy from the people of Taiwan, as we too stand on the frontlines of the battle for democracy.”
It follows months mounting militaristic threat towards Taiwan from China.
Chinese warplanes breaching Taiwan’s air defence zone was recorded 969 times last year, according to AFP data, more than double the 380 in 2020.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said: “The attempt by the US to show support to Taiwan will be in vain, no matter who the US sends.
“The Chinese people are firmly determined and resolved to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”