"We will not stand by and allow any country to compensate Russia for its losses from the economic sanctions," says US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

US says it believes China was aware Russia was planning some action in Ukraine before the assault took place.
US says it believes China was aware Russia was planning some action in Ukraine before the assault took place. (Reuters Archive)

Russia has asked China for military and economic aid for its assault on Ukraine, US media reported, hours after the White House warned Beijing would face severe "consequences" if it helps Moscow evade sanctions.

Russia asked China for military equipment after its February 24 military campaign in Ukraine, sparking concern in the White House that Beijing may undermine Western efforts to help Ukrainian forces defend their country, several US officials said on Sunday.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who is due to meet with China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Rome has warned Beijing it would "absolutely" face consequences if it helped Moscow evade sweeping sanctions over the assault in Ukraine. 

Sullivan plans in his meeting with Yang on Monday to make Washington's concerns clear while mapping out the consequences and growing isolation China would face globally if it increases its support of Russia, one US official said, without providing details. 

READ MORE: Could China benefit from the Ukraine crisis?

Asked about Russia's request for military aid, first reported by the Financial Times, Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for China's embassy in Washington, said: "I've never heard of that." 

He said China found the current situation in Ukraine "disconcerting" and added: "We support and encourage all efforts that are conducive to a peaceful settlement of the crisis." 

Liu said "utmost efforts should be made to support Russia and Ukraine in carrying forward negotiations despite the difficult situation to produce a peaceful outcome." Sullivan told CNN on Sunday that Washington believed China was aware Russia was planning some action in Ukraine before the assault took place, although Beijing may not have understood the full extent of what was planned. 

After the assault began, Russia sought both military equipment and support from China, the US officials said. 

READ MORE: Russia counts on China as nearly half its reserves frozen due to sanctions

'Escalatory spiral'

Sullivan told CNN Washington was watching closely to see to what extent Beijing provided economic or material support to Russia, and would impose consequences if that occurred. 

"We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing, that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them," Sullivan said.

"We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country, anywhere in the world." 

The meeting, planned for some time, is part of a broader effort by Washington and Beijing to maintain open channels of communication and manage competition between the world's two largest economies, a senior Biden administration official said.

No specific outcomes were expected, the source added, speaking on condition of anonymity. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the meeting's focus was to "implement the important consensus" reached during the virtual meeting held between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden in November, which discussed "strategic stability" and arms control issues. 

The two sides will exchange views on US-China relations as well as international and regional issues of common concern, he said in a statement published on the ministry's website. 

Wang Huiyao, head of a Beijing think tank and adviser to the Chinese government, warned of "an escalatory spiral" in a column published in the New York Times on Sunday, and said China was "uniquely positioned to act as a neutral mediator between a Western-supported Ukraine and Russia" to end the war. 

"Unpalatable as some in the West may find the idea, it is time to offer the Russian leader an off-ramp with China's help," Wang wrote. 

Hu Xijin, former editor-in-chief of the state-backed Chinese Global Times newspaper, said on Twitter: "If Sullivan thinks he can persuade China to participate in sanctions against Russia, he will be disappointed." 

READ MORE: Why China has a complex position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict

Source: TRTWorld and agencies