ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Biden urges China’s Xi to pressure Russia in high-stakes phone call

US President Joe Biden meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, on Nov. 15, 2021.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
US President Joe Biden meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, on Nov. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping begin a phone call in which Biden will urge his counterpart to join Western pressure against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine, warning of “costs” if Beijing goes to the Kremlin’s aid.

The two leaders started the call, their first since a video summit in November, at 9:03 a.m., the White House says.

The high-stakes conversation will be a chance for Biden to try to persuade Xi to give up any idea of bailing out Russia from the effects of Western sanctions or even sending military assistance for Russia’s onslaught against neighboring Ukraine.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told CNN on Friday that China should get off the fence and join forces with the West against President Vladimir Putin.

China should “understand that their future is with the United States, with Europe, with other developed and developing countries around the world. Their future is not to stand with Vladimir Putin,” she said.

Biden has successfully marshaled a tight Western alliance against Russia, while giving military support to Ukrainian forces.

But Beijing has refused to condemn its fellow authoritarian ally, and Washington fears the Chinese could switch to full financial and military support for Russia, transforming an already explosive transatlantic standoff into a global dispute.

If that happened, not only could Beijing potentially help Putin weather sanctions and continue his war, but Western governments would face the painful decision of how to strike back at the world’s second-biggest economy, likely prompting turmoil on international markets.

The White House was tight-lipped on whether Biden will threaten China with economic sanctions during his call, but some sort of response is on the table.

Biden “will make clear that China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia’s aggression and we will not hesitate to impose costs,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

China should use “whatever leverage they have to compel Moscow to end this war,” the top US diplomat urged, but said he was “concerned that they’re considering directly assisting Russia with military assistance.”

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