In a show of force, China and Russia’s naval forces held joint exercises in the Pacific on Thursday, running helicopter, artillery and tactical drills to coincide with the leader’s meeting in Samarkand.
China has denied sending any military aid to Russia but has provided diplomatic support throughout the campaign. Russian-held areas in eastern Ukraine have been taken back by a Ukrainian offensive over the past week, weakening Moscow’s military position and some domestic support for the conflict.
In Jeju, South Korea, just north of Taiwan, foreign leaders called for the de-escalation of a volatile situation in Ukraine and raised fears it could prompt further destabilisation in Asia.
South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-Soo said the “international circumstances are in a severe state”.
“Over the past years we have preserved peace, but they have been shaken to the core now,” he told the Jeju Peace Forum on Thursday. “Ukraine and Taiwan are complicated challenges, truly unprecedented in their nature. Individual approaches cannot be successful. The international community must come together.”
Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said international governments could not afford to “keep silent” and took a veiled swipe at China for its ongoing failure to condemn the invasion.
“This is one of the most dangerous moments for global security in decades,” he said.“Neutrality in this situation is not an option. We must show our solidarity.”
The Uzbekistan meeting followed the most explicit endorsement of Putin’s war by Beijing since the invasion began in February.
China’s number three, Li Zhanshu, told officials in Moscow last week that China “fully understood” the necessity of all the measures taken by Russia aimed at protecting its key interests.
“We see that the United States and its NATO allies are expanding their presence near the Russian borders, seriously threatening national security and the lives of Russian citizens,” he said. “On the Ukrainian issue, we see how they have put Russia in an impossible situation. And in this case, Russia made an important choice and responded firmly.”
Li is due to arrive in Seoul on Thursday to meet with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol. The pair were expected to discuss plans for Xi to visit the South Korean capital to mark the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
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