Beijing faces a complicated situation as the crisis in Ukraine intensifies, as it tries to balance deep ties with Moscow with its foreign policy of vigorously defending state sovereignty.
In a brief statement at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday night, China’s ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun said Beijing welcomes and encourages every effort for a diplomatic solution, adding that all concerns should be addressed “on the basis of equality.”
“The current situation in Ukraine is caused by many complex factors. China always takes its position on the merits of the same issue. We believe that all countries should resolve international disputes by peaceful means in line with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.”
The Security Council meeting comes as world leaders are desperately trying to calm the situation in Ukraine, which has seen a rapid turnaround after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian forces into two separate regions backed by Moscow after recognizing them as independent – a move by Western officials. It is proposed to provide a pretext for a broader invasion of Ukraine.
Russia said weeks ago that it would not invade Ukraine, and at the Security Council meeting defended its actions as efforts to “protect and preserve these people” living in the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic (DPR and LPR).
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also spoke with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Monday about developments in North Korea and “Russian aggression against Ukraine,” according to a brief statement from the State Department.
“The minister stressed the need to preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement said. The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website did not include a reading of the call at press time.
China had earlier urged the parties involved in the Ukraine crisis to return to the Minsk agreements, referring to agreements reached in 2014 and 2015 in the wake of conflicts in eastern Ukraine that support Kiev’s control of its border with Russia.
Speaking on Saturday while addressing the Munich Security Conference, Wang said that “the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected.”
But Western leaders said on Monday that Russia’s latest move violated the agreement, and US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield said Putin had “torn the Minsk accords to shreds”.
She also said that every member state of the United Nations has a stake in this brewing crisis. “This is a moment of teamwork,” she said. “There is a high risk of anyone sitting on the fence.”
Russia and China have a long history of supporting each other against what they see as Western interference in their internal affairs, fending off US-led sanctions, and often voting as a bloc at the United Nations.
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