Source: www.nytimes.com : 2022-06-15 13:16:31 : Chris Buckley
China’s president, Xi Jinping, offered to deepen cooperation with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin, in a phone call on Wednesday, signaling that Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine had not dented Mr. Xi’s basic commitment to their partnership.
The two leaders’ call appeared to be their first since late February, soon after Russia launched its full assault on Ukraine. In the months since, the Chinese government has sought to preserve ties with Moscow while maintaining that it was trying to be an impartial broker for peace in Ukraine.
But the summary of the conversation between Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry left little doubt that — whatever his misgivings about the invasion of Ukraine — Mr. Xi remains committed to close ties with Russia, which help to offset rising antagonism with the United States and its allies.
“Throughout this year, Chinese-Russian relations have maintained a healthy momentum of development in the face of global turbulence and change,” Mr. Xi told Mr. Putin, according to the Chinese summary.
“China is willing to promote the steady advancement of practical bilateral cooperation,” Mr. Xi said. “China is willing to continue maintaining mutual support on major issues of mutual concern involving sovereignty, security and other core interests, building closer bilateral strategic cooperation.”
Keeping with China’s official practice since Russia launched its attack, Mr. Xi did not refer to “war” or “invasion” regarding Ukraine, and instead referred only obliquely to the “Ukraine issue.” He told Mr. Putin that China would make its own judgments on that issue, and urged all sides to reach “an appropriate resolution of the Ukrainian crisis.”
Chinese leaders have courted their Russian counterparts for decades, and Mr. Xi redoubled those efforts. When he hosted Mr. Putin in early February, the two leaders declared their commitment to a friendship with “no limits,” even while Washington and European governments were warning that Russia appeared to be readying to attack Ukraine.
Last week, China and Russia opened a bridge linking Heihe, a border city in northeast China, to the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk.
Chinese officials and state-run media have blamed Washington and NATO for creating the conditions for war in Ukraine, arguing that Russia was goaded by NATO’s post-Cold War expansion in Central and Eastern Europe. The official Chinese summary of Mr. Xi’s call with Mr. Putin did not mention that issue.
A NATO summit at the end of this month is poised to approve a new “strategic concept” that will upgrade vigilance against Russia and also mention potential challenges to the alliance from China for the first time.
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