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Beijing Winter Olympics

U.S. says Xi should have urged Putin to ease Ukraine tensions

China had 'opportunity' to encourage Russia to pursue diplomacy, official says

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, poses with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Feb. 4. (Xinhua/AP)

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- The United States indicated its disappointment at China for backing Russia in a standoff over Ukraine during a meeting between their leaders on Friday, saying that "responsible powers" should call for a de-escalation of tensions.

Referring to the talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin just before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics, Daniel Kritenbrink, top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, said that it was "important to note" that the meeting came at a time when Moscow "directly threatens Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, with over 100,000 troops on its border."

The meeting in the Chinese capital "should have provided China the opportunity to encourage Russia to pursue diplomacy and de-escalation in Ukraine," the official told reporters, adding, "That is what the world expects from responsible powers."

He also warned that should Moscow further invade Ukraine following its annexation of Crimea in 2014, it would be damaging to Beijing if it "looks the other way."

"It suggests that China is willing to tolerate, or tacitly support Russia's efforts to coerce Ukraine, even when they embarrass Beijing, harm European security and risk global peace and economic stability," the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs said.

He also emphasized the heavy price Russia would have to pay for any aggression, saying, "We are focused on working with allies and partners, including in the Indo-Pacific, to respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine."

Following the meeting between Xi and Putin, the two countries issued a joint statement showcasing their resolve to deepen their ties in the face of growing international criticism of their poor human rights records and Russia's military buildup on the Ukraine border.

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