Live updates: Russia invades Ukraine, explosions heard near Lviv airport πŸ’₯πŸ’₯πŸ’₯

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian speaks during a news conference in Beijing on March 18. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

China respects “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing on Friday.

He was speaking ahead of a 9 a.m. ET call between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping that is expected to focus on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“China always stands for respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, attaching importance to the legitimate security concerns of all countries, supporting all efforts conducive to the peaceful settlement of the crisis and promoting peace talks and easing the humanitarian situation,” Zhao said.

“China’s position is above board, fair, objective and unquestionable.”

China’s friendship with Russia: Since a February meeting between Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, China has talked up its β€œno-limits partnership” with Russia.

US officials believe Russia has asked China for military and economic support to wage its unprovoked war in Ukraine and that Beijing has indicated its openness to helping Moscow. Both Russia and China have denied the allegation.

The US has indicated that China would pay an economic price if its support for Russia goes beyond rhetoric.

Speaking Friday, Zhao repeated China’s public rebuke, saying “some people in the US have been spreading disinformation to smear and put pressure on China, which is extremely irresponsible and will not help solve the issue. China is firmly opposed to this and will never accept it.”

“The US should seriously reflect on its role in the Ukrainian crisis, take its due responsibilities and take concrete actions to ease the situation and resolve the issue, rather than adding fuel to the fire and shifting the conflict to others,” he said.

Zhao said Ukraine needs food rather than weapons, and the US sending military assistance to the country will not bring peace.

Why leaders’ meeting matters: The call comes at a potential turning point for ties between the United States and China. White House officials are watching with growing concern the budding partnership between Xi and Putin, and China’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has proved troubling to Western observers.

White House officials said they expected the call could turn intense; a preliminary meeting between the two leaders’ aides stretched for seven hours earlier this week.

Live updates: Russia invades Ukraine, explosions heard near Lviv airport

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