Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, will travel to Rome on Monday for high-level discussions with Yang Jiechi, China’s top foreign policy official, that are expected to focus on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The White House said Sullivan would lead a delegation of National Security Council and state department officials for what would be only his third meeting with Yang since the Biden administration took office in January last year.
“This meeting is taking place in the context of Russia’s unjustified and brutal war against Ukraine and as China has aligned itself with Russia to advance their own vision of the world order,” said one person familiar with the agenda, adding that they would discuss the impact of the Russian invasion on “regional and global security”.
The “war in Ukraine will certainly be a significant topic of conversation”, said the person. “It is important for PRC [People’s Republic of China] officials to hear directly from the [US] national security adviser. ”
Emily Horne, NSC spokesperson, said Sullivan and Yang, who have met twice over the past year, would also discuss efforts to manage competition between the US and China. The person familiar with the situation said the Rome talks were a follow-up meeting from President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping’s virtual meeting in November.
The meeting comes as Beijing and Washington remain at odds over a wide range of issues. Over the past year, Biden has implemented policies that have maintained the tough stance struck by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
The Chinese embassy said it had “no information to offer” about the Rome meeting. The discussions come at a pivotal time as Washington grows increasingly alarmed over China’s relationship with Russia, which has been strongly illustrated by its refusal to condemn the invasion and willingness to place the blame on the US and NATO.
China continues to insist that it is a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, but is also increasingly vocal in its support of Moscow’s justifications for its actions.
Earlier this week Chinese diplomats and state media called for the investigation of Russian accusations that the US supported biological warfare research in Ukraine. The US has ridiculed the claims as “preposterous” and warned that Russia might be prepared to use chemical weapons in Ukraine.
Beijing has also parroted Moscow in citing NATO’s eastward expansion in recent decades as a catalyst for the war, and condemned US-led sanctions against the Putin regime as part of a larger effort to contain Russia and China.
Horne said Sullivan would also meet Luigi Mattiolo, a top adviser to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, as part of US efforts to co-ordinate a “strong, united international response to President Putin’s war of choice”.