WASHINGTON, March 1 (Reuters) – The United States is sounding out close allies about the possibility of imposing new sanctions on China if Beijing provides military support to Russia for its war in Ukraine, according to four U.S. and government officials. other sources.
The consultations, which are still at a preliminary stage, aim to mobilize support from a range of countries, particularly those in the wealthy Group of 7 (G7), to coordinate support for possible restrictions.
It is unclear what specific sanctions Washington will propose. The conversations were previously undisclosed.
The US Treasury Department, an agency responsible for imposing sanctions, declined to comment.
Washington and its allies have said in recent weeks that China is considering supplying arms to Russia, which Beijing denies. Aides to US President Joe Biden have not publicly provided evidence.
See 2 more stories
They have also directly warned China against this, including in meetings between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as a February 18 in-person meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the top Chinese diplomat. Wang Yi on the sidelines of a global security conference in Munich.
The Biden administration’s first steps to counter Chinese support for Russia included informal contacts with personnel and diplomatic levels, including the Treasury Department, people familiar with the matter said.
They said officials were setting the stage for potential action against Beijing with the core group of countries that were most supportive of sanctions imposed on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine a year ago.
Asked about the consultations, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council said Russia’s war was making it difficult for China to deal with Europe and others.
“It’s a distraction for China and a potential blow to their international relations that they don’t need and shouldn’t want,” the spokesperson said.
An official from a country consulted by Washington said he had seen little intelligence supporting claims that China was considering possible military assistance to Russia. A US official, however, said they were providing detailed intelligence accounts to allies.
China’s role in the Russia-Ukraine war is expected to be among the topics discussed when Biden meets German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the White House on Friday. Before that in New Delhi on Wednesday and Thursday, the war will be discussed by foreign ministers from dozens of countries, including Russia, China and the United States.
Last week, China released a 12-point document calling for a comprehensive ceasefire that was met with skepticism in the West.
Washington’s initial outreach on the sanctions has yet to lead to broad agreement on specific measures, the sources said.
A source said the administration first wants to raise the idea of coordinated sanctions and ‘take the pulse’ in case shipments to Russia are detected from China, which declared a ‘limitless’ partnership shortly before the February 24 invasion of last year. .
“On the G7 front, I think there is a real awareness,” said a second source, but added that detailed China-focused measures were not yet in place.
COULD CHINA INCLINE THE CONFLICT?
The conflict in Ukraine has turned into a crushing trench warfare. With Russia running out of ammunition, Ukraine and its supporters fear that supplies from China could swing the conflict in Russia’s favor.
In a related diplomatic push, Washington won language in a February 24 G7 statement to mark the first anniversary of the war that called on ‘third countries’ to ‘stop providing material support to the war of Russia, or face significant costs”.
Although the statement did not mention China by name, the United States imposed new sanctions on individuals and companies accused of helping Russia evade sanctions. The measures included restrictions on the export of companies in China and elsewhere that would prevent them from buying items, such as semiconductors.
“We tried to signal very clearly, both privately in Munich and then publicly, our concerns,” Daniel Kritenbrink, the top US diplomat for East Asia, told Congress this week. “We’ve talked about the implications and consequences if they were to do so. And we also know that many of our like-minded partners share these concerns.”
Among the challenges the United States faces in imposing sanctions on China, the world’s second-largest economy, is its deep integration into major economies in Europe and Asia, which complicates the talks. American allies, from Germany to South Korea, are reluctant to alienate China.
Anthony Ruggiero, a sanctions expert under former President Donald Trump, said the Biden administration has the ability to economically restrict private actors in China and that could deter the government and banks from providing additional support.
“Then the administration can send messages to China in public and in private, the latter being more explicit, indicating that the United States will escalate sanctions to include targeting Chinese banks with the full range of options available” , said Ruggiero, now at the Foundation. for the Defense of Democracies group.
Washington should make China choose between access to the US financial system or war aid from Russia, Ruggiero said, citing the approach of sanctions against Iran and North Korea.
Reporting by Michael Martina and Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Don Durfee and Grant McCool
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.