China Warns U.S. of 'Full-Scale Confrontation,' Talks Taiwan, Ukraine in Call

China has warned the U.S. that the two leading powers would be heading for all-out conflict if Washington pursues a purely competitive agenda toward Beijing, during a call in which top diplomats discussed the flashpoints of Taiwan and Ukraine.

The State Department first issued a brief readout late Tuesday revealing a call between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, with State Department spokesperson Ned Price saying the pair discussed "developments in the DPRK" and "Russia's aggression against Ukraine."

"The Secretary underscored the need to preserve Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Price said.

Identical language was used by Blinken himself in a tweet issued shortly afterward, as President Joe Biden's administration prepared to unveil further measures designed to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for recognizing two separatist, self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region and sending in peacekeepers in response to worsening violence that U.S. and Ukrainian have officials have alleged to be part of a "false flag" plot to justify Moscow's intervention.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry then released two separate reports of Wang and Blinken's call, the first of which dealt with bilateral relations.

Wang called for the implementation of the "consensus" reached by the two countries' leaders in their calls over the past year and a virtual summit in November.

"China is willing to effectively manage differences and stabilize Sino-U.S. relations in line with the three principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation put forward by President Xi Jinping," Wang said.

He criticized the Biden administration's release earlier this month of an "Indo-Pacific Strategy" that Wang said "publicly listed China as the top regional challenge, and tried to include the strategy of 'using Taiwan to contain China' into the U.S. regional strategy, which is obviously sending a wrong signal of beleaguering and containing China."

China has vowed to reunify with Taiwan ever since the Communist Party won China's civil war in 1949, forcing nationalists to form a government-in-exile of the self-ruling island. Washington's political ties and military assistance have increased in recent years as relations with Beijing soured, raising tensions between the U.S. and China.

"There is competition and cooperation between China and the United States," Wang said. "We cannot simply use competition to define bilateral relations."

"Some U.S. officials have advocated a long-term and fierce competition with China, which is likely to evolve into a full-scale confrontation between China and the United States," he added. "China once again urges the United States to take concrete actions to reflect the series of commitments made by President Biden."

Noting the 50th anniversary later this week of the Shanghai Communiqué that marked the beginning of the U.S. breaking official ties with Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, and normalizing relations with the People's Republic, Wang said: "It is hoped that the U.S. side will review the original intention of China and the U.S. to break the ice, return to a rational and pragmatic understanding of China, and jointly push China-U.S. relations back to the right track of healthy and stable development."

As for Blinken, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said he reiterated Biden's pledge that "the United States does not seek to engage in a new Cold War, does not seek to change China's system, opposes 'Taiwan independence,' and has no intention of confrontation with China."

Secretary, State, Blinken, China, Foreign, Minister, Wang
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi meet on October 31, 2021 at a hotel in Rome on the sidelines of the G20 of World Leaders Summit of Rome. TIZIANA FABI/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

A second readout said Blinken discussed the U.S. position on Ukraine with Wang, who said: "The legitimate security concerns of any country should be respected, and the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter should be upheld."

Wang blamed the deteriorating situation in Ukraine on a failure to uphold the Minsk Agreement, a deal between Kyiv and rebels overseen by Normandy Format members France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.

"China will continue to make contact with all parties based on the merits of the matter," Wang said. "The situation in Ukraine is getting worse. China once again calls on all parties to exercise restraint, recognize the importance of implementing the principle of indivisibility of security, ease the situation and resolve differences through dialogue and negotiation."

Wang also called on the U.S. to "pay attention to the legitimate and legitimate concerns of the DPRK and take substantive actions" on the effort toward denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula, as Wang said the bilateral dynamic between Washington and Pyongyang was at "the core" of the issue.

"China advocates direct dialogue between the U.S. and the DPRK and will, as always, play a constructive role in promoting the settlement of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue," Wang said.

Despite the downturn in U.S.-China relations of recent years, the Biden administration has repeatedly reached out to Beijing to discuss top issues, including both Ukraine and North Korea.

U.S. officials have expressed disappointment, however, in China's response to Russia's actions toward Ukraine as Beijing and Moscow only tightened their "comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for the new era."

In a joint statement following Xi and Putin's summit at the beginning of the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing earlier this month, the two countries vowed to work even more closely together on foreign policy, among other sectors, and it was said that "the Chinese side is sympathetic to and supports the proposals put forward by the Russian Federation to create long-term legally binding security guarantees in Europe."

And last week, as the Biden administration issued repeating warnings that Russia may invade despite Moscow's denials, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called on the U.S. to "value and accommodate Russia's legitimate and reasonable concerns over security protection and play a constructive role for all parties to seek a political settlement to the Ukraine issue on the basis of the Minsk II agreement, rather than hype up and sensationalize the crisis and escalate tensions."

That same day, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, asked about the growing alignment of China and Russia, said he could not speak directly to "the strength of that alliance" but expressed concern over Beijing's approach.

"We did note with alarm China's tacit approval of Putin's activities here in the region," Austin said at the time. "So I'm not sure that we can make any kind of a direct inference from what you just raised, but certainly, those are things that we'll continue to watch going forward."

As the U.S , Russia and other U.N. Security Council members discussed the latest events in Ukraine at an emergency meeting Monday, Chinese permanent representative Zhang Jun offered the briefest account.

"China has been paying close attention to the latest development of the situation in Ukraine. We have fully elaborated on our position at the previous two meetings of the Security Council," Zhang said. "At present, all parties concerned must exercise restraint, and avoid any action that may fuel tensions. We welcome and encourage every effort for a diplomatic solution, and call on all parties concerned to continue dialogue and consultation, and seek reasonable solutions to address each other's concerns on the basis of equality and mutual respect."

"The current situation in Ukraine is a result of many complex factors," he added. "China always makes its own position according to the merits of the matter itself. We believe that all countries should solve international disputes by peaceful means in line with the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter."

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