US officials disclosed on Sunday, March 14, that Russia was asking China to provide it with military and economic help in its invasion of Ukraine.
According to the New York Times, the officials said the request was made last month as the full-scale invasion was launched.
The officials declined to detail what kind of weaponry or assistance China was asked to offer or whether China has responded. They also refused to discuss how the US had extracted the information over the sensitivity of intelligent sources.
The news came as Russia continued to intensify its military assault on Ukraine despite facing sweeping financial sanctions from world powers. Before the war, Russia has repeatedly demanded Ukraine deny NATO membership over concerns of the alliance’s encroachment on its territory.
The US officials are closely monitoring China’s reactions to any requests for assistance from Russia. There have been worries that the Asian ally to Russia would undermine any efforts by Western countries to aid the Ukrainian military.
The news came as national security adviser Jake Sullivan is set to arrive in Rome on Monday, March 14, to discuss the Russia-Ukraine war with Yang Jiechi, China’s top foreign policy official.
The meeting would see Sullivan warning China about agreeing to give Russia a hand in the conflict. He told CNN on Sunday, “We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing, that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions, evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them.”
He added, “We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country, anywhere in the world.”
According to the Washington Post, Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said, “I’ve never heard of that,” on the existence of Russia’s request for China’s aid.
Meanwhile, speaking with CNN, Sullivan hinted that China had some knowledge of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions. Still, he admitted that Beijing may not have understood the whole breadth of Putin’s plans.