China rejects sanctions as war in Ukraine tops summit agenda | Military

BRUSSELS (AP) — China renewed its criticism of Western sanctions against Russia on Friday, as senior European Union officials asked Beijing for assurances that it would not help Moscow circumvent the economic measures imposed. in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has also blamed the war in Ukraine, at least in part, on the United States for pushing to expand the NATO military alliance closer to Russia’s borders. Twenty-one of the 27 EU countries are also members of NATO.

During a virtual summit, European Council President Charles Michel, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell searched for signs of Chinese President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang that Beijing would help end the war.

“China opposes solving problems through sanctions, and we are even more opposed to unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction that have no basis in international law,” said the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. foreign Zhao Lijian at a daily briefing when they met.

Zhao said that when it comes to Ukraine, Beijing would not be forced to “choose sides or take a simplistic friend-or-foe approach.” We must, in particular, resist the idea of ​​the cold war and the confrontation of blocs.

“As the culprit and main instigator of the Ukraine crisis, the United States led NATO to engage in five rounds of eastward expansion in the past two decades after 1999,” he said. he said, adding that NATO membership had almost doubled from 16 to 30 countries, and pushed “Russia to the wall step by step”.

China says it takes no sides in the conflict, but it has declared a “limitless” partnership with Russia and refuses to condemn the invasion. Beijing regularly amplifies Russian disinformation about the conflict and does not label it an invasion or a war in accordance with Russian practice.

Ahead of the summit, EU officials said they would look for signs that Beijing is ready to cooperate to end the war. The meeting comes amid growing negative sentiment within the bloc, fueled by China’s aggressive foreign policy and trade practices.

EU expectations of China underpin the possibility of sanctions against Chinese companies that undermine measures taken against Russia. EU officials point out that 13.7% of China’s total trade is with the 27-nation bloc and 12% with the United States, compared to just 2.4% with Russia.

The officials said they also wanted to highlight the impact of the war on the availability of fertilizers and global energy and food prices, which hit the poorest countries in Africa and the Middle the hardest. -East.

Other topics include China’s travel ban on members of the European Parliament; Beijing’s economic boycott of EU member Lithuania over its relationship with Taiwan; the fate of a stalled investment deal; and civil and political rights under the authoritarian regime of the Chinese Communist Party.

Beijing dismissed European criticism as biased and motivated by an anti-China agenda pursued by its main global rival, the United States.

Beijing also sanctioned some European Union lawmakers last year after the EU, Britain, Canada and the United States launched coordinated sanctions against officials in China for human rights abuses. man in the far western region of Xinjiang.

The European Parliament responded by saying it would not ratify a long-awaited investment deal while sanctions remained in place.

Rights groups have also urged the EU to take a more assertive stance with China over the crackdown in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and elsewhere and the persecution of Chinese dissidents, including Sakharov Prize winner Ilham Tohti. and Chinese-Swedish publisher Gui Minhai.

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Moritsugu reported from Beijing.

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