US’s Sullivan, China’s Yang meet in Rome, Chinese state media says

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – Top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi met with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday (March 14) in Rome, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported.

It gave no other details, including whether the meeting had concluded.

US officials said earlier that Mr Sullivan will stress the economic penalties Beijing will face if it helps Russia in its war in Ukraine.

Mr Sullivan will warn of the isolation China could face globally if it continued to support Russia, one US official said, without providing details.

Officials of the US and other countries have sought to make clear to China in recent weeks that siding with Russia could carry consequences for trade flows, development of new technologies and could expose it to secondary sanctions.

Chinese companies that defy US restrictions on exports to Russia may be cut off from American equipment and software they need to make their products, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said last week.

It will be Mr Sullivan’s first known meeting with Mr Yang since closed-door sessions in Zurich in October last year that sought to calm tension after an acrimonious public exchange between the two in Alaska a year ago.

China is the world’s largest exporter, the European Union’s largest trading partner, and the US’ top foreign supplier of goods, and any pressure on Chinese trade could have knock-on economic effects for the US and its allies.

On Sunday, US officials told Reuters Russia had asked China for military equipment after its invasion, sparking concern within the Biden administration that Beijing might undermine Western efforts to aid Ukraine by helping to strengthen Moscow’s military.

Mr Sullivan told CNN on Sunday that Washington was watching closely to see how far Beijing provided economic or material support to Russia.

“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 said.

“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.”

Ties between the two nations, already at their lowest in decades, took a further plunge last month when leaders Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin announced an upgraded “no limits” strategic partnership just weeks before the Ukraine invasion.

Beijing, a key trading partner of Russia, has refused to call Moscow’s actions an invasion, although Mr Xi last week did call for “maximum restraint” and express concern about the impact of Western sanctions on the global economy, amid growing signs that they limit China’s ability to buy Russian oil.

Washington and its allies have imposed sweeping, unprecedented sanctions on Russia and banned its energy imports, while providing billions of dollars of military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

China’s Washington embassy expressed surprise about reports of Russia’s request for military aid, which first appeared in the Financial Times newspaper, and a leading Chinese analyst suggested Beijing could act as a mediator in Ukraine.