Senior US officials met briefly with China’s envoy for Europe, Li Hui, during a Saudi Arabia summit to encourage Russia’s withdrawal from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The meeting between National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, and China’s envoy was described as a brief greeting by the National Security Council. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller did not reveal specifics of the encounter, but the meeting comes amid heightened tensions between the US and China.
On Sunday, the State Department criticized Chinese naval ships for obstructing Philippine vessels in the South China Sea, describing the actions as “dangerous,” and China’s Foreign Ministry accused the US of “pulling strings behind the scenes.”
Despite the differences, US officials have sought China’s assistance in influencing Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, underscored by the two nations declaring a “no limits partnership” before Russia invaded Ukraine, has positioned China as a potentially influential mediator. Regarding China’s participation in the summit, Miller termed it as “productive,” stating, “We have long said that it would be productive for China to play a role in ending the war in Ukraine, if it was willing to play a role that respected Ukraine’s territorial integrity and Ukraine’s sovereignty.”
Miller also emphasized that neither China nor the US are leading any negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, and he pointed the finger at Moscow for failing to “engage in meaningful peace negotiations.” He further stated, “Should there ever be peace negotiations, it’s Ukraine that will be in the lead, from the non-Russian side. The United States is happy to play any role that is productive, to stand with our Ukrainian partners, and we would welcome any other country that wants to play a productive role as well.”