China Says U.S. Is ‘Not Qualified’ to Issue Orders on Arms

Bristling against U.S. claims that Beijing may be poised to send “lethal support” to help Russia’s war in Ukraine, China accused the Biden administration on Monday of spreading lies and defended China’s close partnership with Russia.

The remarks, by a spokesman from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, were part of a series of diplomatic moves as China’s leader, Xi Jinping, attempts to preserve ties with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia while casting Beijing as a blameless onlooker in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, trying only to coax Moscow and Kyiv to peace talks. They came hours before China’s most senior foreign policy official reportedly arrived in Moscow.

On the weekend, the U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, indicated that he had evidence that, behind the scenes, Beijing was tilting toward stronger support for Mr. Putin and “considering providing lethal support to Russia in its aggression against Ukraine.” That step would mark a major shift for China, which has defended its broader economic, energy and political ties with Moscow, but not supplied it with weapons, ammunition or other battlefield equipment for the invasion. Mr. Blinken said he had warned his Chinese counterpart that there would be serious consequences were that to occur.

Asked about the accusations from Mr. Blinken and other U.S. officials, Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, suggested that, on the contrary, it was the United States that was stoking bloodshed in Ukraine.

“It’s the U.S., and not China, that has been incessantly supplying weapons to the battlefield, and the U.S. is not qualified to issue any orders to China,” Mr. Wang told a regular news conference in Beijing. Washington, Mr. Wang added, should “stop shirking responsibility and disseminating fake news. China will continue firmly standing on the side of dialogue and the side of peace.”

Even during the news conference, Mr. Wang was asked about reports that Wang Yi — China’s most senior foreign policy official — was heading to Moscow after delivering a speech at the Munich Security Conference.

TASS, the Russian state news agency, later reported that the top foreign policy official had arrived in Moscow, citing Kommersant. President Vladimir V. Putin might meet with him while he is there, according to Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman.

U.S. officials are watching Mr. Wang’s trip closely, which comes after the Chinese official spoke in Munich in defense of Beijing’s straddling position on Russia and the war in Ukraine.

“We are deeply concerned by the expanded and extended crisis,” Mr. Wang, the top official, said when asked about the war during a question-and-answer session in Munich. He also suggested that the United States had an interest in perpetuating the fighting in Ukraine.

“Some forces may not want to see peace talks to materialize,” Mr. Wang said. “They don’t care about the life and death of the Ukrainians, nor the harm to Europe. They may have strategic goals larger than Ukraine itself.”

Amy Chang Chien contributed reporting.

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