On Tuesday China has again addressed the war in Ukraine, coming as Russia's invasion has completed its first week. While prior official comments out of Beijing appeared to focus on condemning NATO expansionism while urging the West to take seriously Moscow's 'legitimate security concerns' - this newest statement has sounded alarm over rising civilian casualties.
The foreign ministry statement said China "deplores" the outbreak of the conflict, saying it's "extremely concerned" about civilians being harmed. The statement didn't single out Russia, but still appears directed at Moscow given the words were conveyed in a phone call between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.
The statement said China respects the "sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries" - but left it at a broad level without specifying further. "In view of the current crisis, China calls on Ukraine and Russia to find a solution to the issue through negotiations," Wang Yi said, according to Bloomberg, and further underscored the need for "political settlement".
Russian and Ukrainian media widely reported Tuesday that the next round of ceasefire talks are expected to take place Wednesday, along the Polish-Belarusian border. This as the civilian death toll in so far is being widely reported at over 400 killed.
"As the war continues to expand, the top priority is to ease the situation to prevent the conflict from escalating or even getting out of control, especially to prevent harm to civilians, and to ensure the safe and timely access of humanitarian aid," Wang added. The Ukrainian top diplomat expressed hope for China’s mediation for a ceasefire.
In the phone call, the Ukrainian side urged China to press Putin to stop the war...
Meanwhile, China has an estimated 6,000 citizens currently inside Ukraine, as its embassy there scrambles to initiate evacuation plans:
"There are missiles in the air, explosions and guns on the ground, and the two armies are fighting each other...How is it possible to ensure safety (to leave) in such circumstances?" Ambassador Fan Xianrong said in a video posted to the embassy's social media account on Saturday, three days after the Embassy released plans for evacuate flights.
Chinese FM Wang Yi didn’t “deplore” the outbreak of conflict. He used Chinese word “痛惜“, which means deeply grieved. More important, 痛惜 doesn’t include the meaning of criticism. Financial Times shouldn’t translate the word as “deplore”. pic.twitter.com/uBhW1XU5cI— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) March 1, 2022
Beijing's reaction to the Ukraine crisis has been under a microscope since the start of the Russian invasion, given the parallels of the situation with Taiwan. Beijing officials recently issued provocative comments saying Taiwan is "not Ukraine" - meaning China doesn't at all see it as a sovereign entity to begin with.