China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson repeatedly refused to classify Russia’s attack on Ukraine as an “invasion” and blamed the United States for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of war.
During a news conference on Thursday, China’s assistant foreign minister, Hua Chunying, was asked multiple times if she would consider Russia’s assault on Ukraine an invasion, but she refused to answer the question.
Instead, Hua suggested the U.S. was to blame for the attacks.
“The U.S. has been fueling the flame, fanning up the flame, how do they want to put out the fire?” Hua said, according to an official translation of her remarks, CNBC reported.
Hua also said Russia is an “independent major country” that can make its own decisions on military action.
“China is closely following the development of the situation. What you are seeing today is not what we have wished to see,” Hua added. “We hope all parties can go back to dialogue and negotiation.”
Tong Zhao, a senior fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said China “is clearly sympathetic to Russian perspectives.”
Zhao said “China thinks that it’s the NATO expansion and other threats from the U.S. and NATO” that required Russia to protect “its legitimate interests.”
“In other words, I think China feels Russia feels it is forced to do what it is doing,” he continued. “Because Russia is now receiving wide international condemnation and criticism I think China wants to avoid being seen as part of this axis.”
Zhao said China has been “very careful” when it comes to publicly addressing the Russian invasion.
“It’s hard for China to openly support this Russian behavior given this implication for China’s own security and China’s relationship with Taiwan,” Zhao added.
Putin announced in a television address early Thursday morning from the Kremlin that Russia has decided to launch a “special military action” to demilitarize Ukraine. The announcement is expected to be a declaration of war against Ukraine.
President Joe Biden called Putin’s declaration of war and subsequent military action against Ukraine an “unprovoked and unjustified” attack. Biden’s statement was released shortly after Russian forces had begun entering Ukraine from Crimea.
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable,” Biden said in a statement.