The Chinese regime could be considering providing lethal aid to Russia, according to U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, which, if confirmed, would represent an unprecedented escalation of China’s presence in the Russia-Ukraine war.
“[F]or the most part, China has been engaged in providing rhetorical, political, diplomatic support to Russia. But we have information that gives us concern that they are considering providing lethal support to Russia in the war against Ukraine,” Blinken told ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday, after meeting with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, at the Munich Security Conference.
Wang spoke at the conference on Feb. 18 and said the Chinese regime is working on a “peace proposal” to reconcile the two sides of the conflict. Blinken indicated that the stipulated intention appears to run contrary to what is indicated in intelligence held by the United States.
“There are various kinds of lethal assistance that they are at least contemplating providing, to include weapons,” Blinken said, adding that Washington would soon release additional details. He warned that Beijing’s said assistance to Russia would mean “serious consequences” for U.S.-China relationship.
Wang and Blinken’s meeting marked the first face-to-face exchange between the two sides since the surveillance balloon incident that set off an uproar in the United States and forced Blinken to cancel a planned visit to Beijing, bringing the relationship between the leader of the liberal democratic world and the leader of authoritarian governments to a freezing point.
Hours before the meeting, Wang described the U.S. shootdown of the Chinese spy balloon that enter U.S. airspace without permission as “hysterical,” “unimaginable,” and a violation of international norms.
The Chinese regime insists that the spy balloon is a weather balloon intended mainly for research purposes; the United States rejects this contention saying that it detected other equipment onboard and downed the spy balloon with an F-22 fighter jet.
In a statement following the U.S.-China exchange in Germany, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it does not “accept the U.S.’s finger-pointing or even coercion targeting China-Russia relations” and, regarding the balloon incidence, threatened that the United States “should be prepared to bear all consequence arising from an escalation.”
‘Ticket on the Titanic’
After Blinken spoke to ABC on Sunday, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) warned in the same program that Beijing providing military aid to Moscow would have “catastrophic” consequences for the U.S.-China relationship.
“What Secretary Blinken said is big news to me. He believes that the Chinese are on the verge of providing lethal weapons to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” Graham said. “And to the Chinese, if you jump on the Putin train, you’re dumber than dirt. It would be like buying a ticket on the Titanic after you saw the movie.”
“The most catastrophic thing that could happen to [the] U.S.-China relationship, in my opinion, is for China … to start to give lethal weapons to Putin in this crime against humanity. That would change everything forever,” Graham said, recalling Vice President Kamala Harris’s comments on Feb. 18 about designating Russia’s actions in Ukraine as a “crime against humanity.”
In a separate interview with CNN, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, echoed Graham’s comments.
“We’re not going to advance and announce what we’re planning to do, but we made clear to the Chinese that there will be consequences should they make that unfortunate decision,” Thomas-Greenfield said, cautioning that the lethal support from the Chinese regime to Russia would be a “red line.”
Eva Fu contributed to this report.