In a quandary over President Vladimir Putin’s move to recognize the independence of Ukraine’s two separatist regions, China, a close ally of Russia, on Tuesday called for restraint while maintaining diplomatic silence on Moscow’s latest actions that ratcheted up global tensions.
Putin on Monday recognized the independence of separatist regions in eastern Ukraine Donetsk and Luhansk as independent entities paving the way to provide the military support, fueling fears that Russia could imminently invade Ukraine.
While the US, EU and their allies which are firmly backing Ukraine in its standoff against Russia, China chose to walk a fine line, saying that Russia’s legitimate security concerns must be respected but parried questions to Putin’s move to declare “the Lugansk People’s Republic ( LPR)” and “the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR)” as independent and sovereign states. The Ukraine tensions figured prominently in Tuesday’s telephone talks between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Blinken briefed Wang on the US’ views and position on the current situation in Ukraine, while Wang noted that China is monitoring the Ukraine situation closely, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a press release. Wang emphasized China’s consistent position on the Ukraine issue. He said that the legitimate security concerns of any country must be respected, and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter must be upheld, it said.
What has happened on the Ukraine issue has much to do with the long delay in the effective implementation of the Minsk II agreements, he said referring to the protocol signed in 2014 and 2015 which ruled out foreign armed formations, including NATO, equipment and mercenaries. China will continue to engage all parties according to the merits of the matter itself. The situation in Ukraine is deteriorating, Wang said while referring to Putin’s latest decree.
China once again calls on all parties to exercise restraint, appreciate the importance of implementing the principle of indivisible security, and de-escalate the situation and resolve differences through dialogue and negotiation, he said without Putin’s decree of independence to two separatist regions. At the Chinese Foreign Ministry media briefing, Spokesman Wang Wenbin had a tough time staving off a spat of questions on Putin recognizing the independence of separatist regions and whether China would follow suit. “The Ukraine issue has complexities of the past and present. Our position on Ukraine is consistent and clear and remains unchanged, Wang said when asked whether China would recognize them as independent states.
China calls on all parties to peacefully resolve the dispute in accordance with the principle of the UN charter. All parties need to exercise and resolve the differences through negotiations and avoid continued escalation of the situation. When pointed out that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres himself considered the decision of Russia to recognize two eastern Ukrainian separatist regions as independent as violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations,” Wenbin said, China will maintain communication and response in accordance with the merits of the matter.
All countries’ security interests should be respected and protected, he said, calling for restraint and avoiding escalation. True Security should be common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable, he said.
Asked whether China is coordinating a response to Ukraine issue among the BRICS, (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), especially in the light of the bloc’s emphasis on sovereignty and territorial integrity, Wenbin said respect for other country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity is a basic norm in international relations which is reflected in the UN Charter. It is also a principled position China has been upholding, he said.
China is this year’s Chair of the BRICS countries. He also sought to dismiss commonalities between Putin’s remarks questioning Ukraine’s statehood and China’s stand that breakaway province Taiwan is part of the mainland, Wenbin said there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is a part of it, which is an indisputable and legal fact .
One China policy is universally recognized. The Chinese people have a strong will and capability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said. Chinese foreign policy experts said China would not recognize the two independent states declared by Putin.
Zhang Xin, associate professor of international relations at Shanghai East China Normal University, said the Chinese government was in a difficult position on the Ukraine issue. The previous position on going back to the Minsk agreements would be one that’s hard to defend as the position has obviously developed outside this framework, he said.
He did not expect Beijing to express judgment over Russia’s actions, nor would China show extra support for Russia’s move. And China would not recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk as Putin had decreed on Monday, Zhang told the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post. I do not think Beijing would provide any new backing on the latest moves from Russia, or offer a specific lifeline (regarding) sanctions that it could be facing following any military moves, Zhang said.
Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University, said Beijing’s reaction to the Ukraine crisis would become increasingly abstract, emphasizing the need for a peaceful settlement and that the territorial integrity of all parties be held.