China open to Ukraine talks, Russia fires missiles
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang says his country will maintain lines of communication with all parties to the war in Ukraine in seeking a ceasefire amid a new wave of Russian missile strikes on Ukraine.
European countries have repeatedly criticised China for its refusal to describe Russia's war in Ukraine as an invasion, or to call for a Russian withdrawal.
China has denied concerns that it may be considering arming Russia for its Ukraine campaign, which it calls a "special military operation" against security threats.
"As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and responsible major country, China will neither watch the fire from the other bank nor add fuel to the fire," Qin told reporters alongside German counterpart Annalena Baerbock during a visit to Berlin.
"China is willing to maintain communication with relevant parties, including Germany, to achieve an early ceasefire."
Baerbock welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy - their first since the February 2022 Russian invasion but said it was important for China to make explicit its support for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.
She said that China "can play a significant role in ending the war if it chooses to do so".
Qin and Baerbock also touched on a European Union proposal to blacklist some Chinese companies and curb exports to countries seen as involved in bypassing Russia trade restrictions under the latest set of EU sanctions over the invasion.
Qin said China "firmly opposes some countries in using their so-called laws to impose long-arm jurisdiction and unilateral sanctions on other countries, including China".
He added: "China will make necessary responses and resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and legitimate interests of Chinese enterprises."
Baerbock said that negotiations on the new package of sanctions were ongoing but that generally it was important to prevent Russian defence companies "from gaining access to war-relevant goods", and to ensure "that sanctioned dual-use goods don't fall into the wrong hands".
Diplomatic sources have told Reuters the EU executive's proposal focuses on combating circumvention of existing trade restrictions through third countries, after the EU identified China, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates as well as states in central Asia and the Caucasus as potential culprits.
Germany has been reassessing its bilateral relations with China amid increased wariness of the Asian giant as a strategic rival even as it remains Germany's largest trading partner.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday expressed pessimism about the prospects for peace in Ukraine, saying "peace negotiations are unfortunately not possible at the moment. Both sides are convinced that they can win".
Russia is "not ready at the moment to withdraw from the occupied territories," he told Spanish newspaper El Pais.
"And I believe that Ukraine has the hope of taking them back."
However, he described the likelihood of nuclear weapons being used as "very low".
"The Chinese initiative was very important to emphasise that nuclear escalation is unacceptable," Guterres said.
Ukraine on Tuesday said its air defences had shot down 23 of 25 Russian cruise missiles fired chiefly at the capital Kyiv overnight and there were no reported casualties.
Russia's defence ministry said it had "launched a concentrated strike using high-precision, long-range sea and air-based weapons aimed against enemy barracks and ammunition depots".
After a weeks-long hiatus, Russia in late April resumed its tactic of long-range missile strikes against Ukraine and has launched a flurry of attacks in recent days.