U.S. officials say no overt Chinese support for Russia

U.S. officials say no overt Chinese support for Russia

Two months after warnings that Beijing appeared poised to help Russia in its fight against Ukraine, senior U.S. officials say they have not detected overt Chinese military and economic support, a welcome development in the tense U.S.-China relationship.

U.S. officials have said they remain wary about China's long-standing support for Russia in general, but the military and economic support they worried about has not come to pass, at least for now. The relief comes at a pivotal time.

U.S. President Joe Biden is going to Asia later this month, dominated by how to deal with the rise of China and his administration is about to release his first national security strategy about the emergence of China as a great power.

As well as steering clear of directly backing Russia's war effort, China has avoided entering new contracts between its state oil refiners and Russia, despite steep discounts. In March, the state-owned Sinopec Group suspended talks about a major petrochemical investment and a gas marketing venture in Russia.

Last month, the U.S. envoy to the UN praised China's abstentions on the UN's UN votes to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a win, underscoring how Beijing's enforced balancing act between Russia and the West may be the best outcome for Washington.

China has refused to condemn Russia's actions in Ukraine and criticized Western sanctions on Moscow, while saying it is not deliberately helping circumvent them.

The trade volume between Russia and China increased in the first quarter, and the two declared a no limits partnership in February.

The embassy said that the U.S. officials had since said they had seen no evidence of China providing such support.

Biden has not spoken of China helping Russia since he told reporters in Brussels March 24 that he was in a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping that he made sure he understood the consequences. The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that China is dealing with the significant reputational risk of being Russia's ally and that for now we are not seeing significant support from China for Russia's military actions. Biden is planning to visit Tokyo and Seoul in what will be his first trip to Asia as president - a trip that won't include a stop in China. He will meet with Indian and Australian leaders during a Quad meeting in Tokyo.

Biden aides were worried that Xi was planning to give direct support to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as his campaign in Ukraine faced fierce setbacks, a U.S. official said.

The official said that Washington and its allies are continuing to monitor the level of assistance, although they were heartened by the fact that this has not happened so far.

Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said that the warnings from the U.S. and the European Union have paid off so far.

There is a message that China will face severe consequences if it does so. She said that it is possible that the Chinese planned to provide military assistance and changed their minds.

U.S. officials remain concerned about China s refusal to condemn Russia's actions in Ukraine and what they say is its continued parroting of Russian disinformation over its intervention there.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said on April 21 that Beijing had repeatedly drawn false conclusions between Russia's war of aggression and Ukraine's self-defensive actions. She added: Let s be clear, China is already doing things that don't help this situation.