U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price on Wednesday warned there would be ‘consequences’ if China were to provide lethal aid to Russia in its war against Ukraine, but when pressed on just what those consequences might be, he was more ambiguous.
Wednesday’s comments came after Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who met with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Munich over the weekend, said the U.S. has evidence China is considering providing lethal support to Russia.
Price clarified that the U.S. has not seen concrete evidence of direct support, but added ‘we don’t believe they’ve taken it off the table, either.’
Price said China’s providing of lethal weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine ‘would cause real consequences in our bilateral relationship.’
‘The [People’s Republic of China] understands what’s at risk were it to proceed with providing material support to Russia’s war against Ukraine,’ he said. ‘We’ve been clear we will not hesitate to target Chinese companies or individuals that violate our sanctions, and we’re monitoring very vigilantly for potential violations.’
Price predicted that China would suffer ‘reputational costs’ if it were to follow through with providing Russia with lethal aid.
‘Already, it is providing diplomatic support. It is providing economic support. It is … spewing propaganda that serves to amplify the lies, the distortions, the myths, the half-truths that are emanating from Moscow,’ he said.
Later in the press conference, a reporter questioned what possible leverage the U.S. has as a deterrent if China sides with Russia.
Price said there was ‘an advantage to some degree of ambiguity.’
‘We have been clear with the PRC about the fact that consequences would befall them if they were to provide lethal assistance, but we think it’s most effective if we leave that ambiguous and we continue to warn consistently of those consequences,’ Price said.
Experts have argued that the Biden administration might have forced China’s hand after revealing its suspicions that China was considering providing Russia with lethal aid.
The U.S. and its NATO allies have repeatedly warned that any nation — including China — will see severe economic sanctions if they are found aiding Russia’s war against Ukraine.
China has toed the line when it comes to the war in Ukraine, refusing to condemn Russia’s invasion but also, so far, failing to provide arms to its chief international partner.
Fox News’ Caitlin McFall and The Associated Press contributed to this report.