Western leaders have reacted with skepticism to an announcement by China’s top diplomats that Beijing would present a peace proposal to end the war in Ukraine.
Wang Yi said at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday that China is “not directly involved in the conflict, but is not standing idly by” and will soon publish a position paper on how to find a political solution.
He said it would be based on principles already established by President Xi Jinping, including territorial integrity and “the sovereignty of all countries.”
In an apparent reference to the Russian army’s occupation of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, Wang also said China opposed “attacks on nuclear power plants.”
The Chinese initiative is expected to be unveiled next week, around February 24, the anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Western leaders have expressed concern about Sino-Russian cooperation.
Kamala Harris, US Vice President, said Washington was “concerned that Beijing has deepened its ties with Moscow since the beginning of the war.”
She added: “Any move by China to lethally assist Russia would only reward aggression, continue the killing and further undermine a rules-based order.”
Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said the West was skeptical of a Chinese peace initiative calling for an immediate ceasefire.
“Who doesn’t want guns to stop firing? We just have to be incredibly careful about the kinds of traps that can be set,” he told the conference.
Russian President Vladimir Putin may decide that “because things are going badly for him,” his “best bet is to call for an immediate ceasefire” and create a “frozen conflict,” Blinken said.
“He will never negotiate the conquered territory, and in the meantime he will use the time to rest, rearm, rearm and attack again,” he warned.
US-China relations and the threat to European security posed by Russian aggression have dominated the Munich Security Conference, which brought together senior foreign policy, defense and intelligence officials from across the West on the eve of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine .
Western leaders have urged China to raise its voice at the UN to condemn the war, but Beijing has maintained a deliberately neutral public stance.
Last year, just 20 days before the invasion, Presidents Xi and Vladimir Putin entered into what they called a “relationship without borders.”
Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock commented on the Chinese proposal that “we must seize every opportunity for peace”.
“It’s good . . . that China sees it as its responsibility to work for world peace as a member of the UN Security Council,” she said.
However, she warned that Germany would not accept the Chinese proposal when it came to stopping Western arms sales to Ukraine.
“If Russia stops fighting, this war will be over,” she said. “But if Ukraine stops defending itself . . . then Ukraine is over. And we cannot accept that.”
Any peace proposal must be based on a “recognition of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each country,” she added.
Wang also used his speech in Munich to criticize Washington for its reaction to the recent flight of a Chinese balloon into US airspace. Washington’s decision to launch the balloon off the Atlantic coast earlier this month was “hysterical and absurd,” he said.
He added that in order to keep the peace across the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan independence forces must be fought.
The US has said it suspects the balloon was being used for surveillance after it flew over the US and Canada for a week. Beijing has denied this.
“Around the world there are many balloons from many countries. Do you want to shoot every one of them?” Wang said.
“It didn’t show that the US is strong. On the contrary, it showed the opposite. We urge the US not to do such absurd things to divert attention from its domestic problems.”
Western officials now believe the balloon may have deviated from its intended course. Biden said Friday he wanted to speak to Chinese President Xi Jinping to “get to the bottom of the incident,” though he didn’t say when.