US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has called on China to pressure Russia to end its military offensive in Ukraine, saying Beijing risked losing its standing in the world if it does not help end the “heinous war”.
Speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington on Wednesday, Yellen said she “fervently” hoped that China would make something positive out of its “special relationship” with Russia.
“The world’s attitude towards China and its willingness to embrace further economic integration may well be affected by China’s reaction to our call for resolute action on Russia,” she said.
“China cannot expect the global community to respect its appeals to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity in the future if does not respect these principles now when it counts,” added Yellen, in a reference to China’s claim over Taiwan.
For weeks, the United States has pushed China to take a harder line against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, which has displaced millions of people and devastated Ukrainian cities and towns since it began on February 24.
US President Joe Biden has warned his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping of “consequences” should Beijing provide aid to Moscow in its offensive, after reports that Russia had asked for China’s assistance.
China has taken a neutral public position on the war, urging nations to support efforts to reach a resolution to the conflict, while resisting pressure from Washington and its allies in Europe to condemn Russia. It also has repeatedly criticised what it calls illegal and unilateral Western sanctions.
China “firmly opposes” associating China-Russia relations with the Ukraine crisis, said Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington, adding that Beijing was “committed to promoting peace talks”.
“China opposes all forms of unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction of the U.S., and will resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies and individuals,” he said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
In early April, at the first summit between China and the European Union in two years, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told EU leaders that Beijing would push for peace in “its own way”.
Xi also told the European leaders that the root cause of the Ukraine crisis “was regional security tensions in Europe” and that the “fundamental solution was to accommodate the legitimate security concerns of all relevant parties”, according to the state-run Global Times.
Last week, China was among 24 nations that voted against a United Nations General Assembly motion to expel Russia from the body’s Human Rights Council over alleged abuses in Ukraine. The country’s ambassador to the UN said the move risked “adding fuel to the fire”.
Back in Washington on Wednesday, Yellen also warned countries that she said were “still on the fence” amid the US-led push to isolate Russia through strict economic sanctions and other measures.
“The future of our international order, both for peaceful security and economic prosperity, is at stake,” she said. “And let’s be clear, the unified coalition … will not be indifferent to actions that undermine the sanctions we’ve put in place.”
Her remarks come days after Biden told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a virtual meeting that buying more oil from Russia was not in India’s interest.
While the US has banned energy imports from Russia and European countries have vowed to wean themselves off supplies from Moscow, India has purchased at least 13 million barrels of discounted Russian crude since the war in Ukraine began.
At a news conference after the high-level meetings on Monday, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s external affairs minister, pushed back against a question on India’s energy purchases from Russia, saying the focus should be on Europe, not India.
“Probably our total purchases for the month would be less than what Europe does in an afternoon,” he told reporters.