Lukashenko arrives in Beijing as concerns rise around China-Russia relations

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko arrived in Beijing on Tuesday as part of a scheduled visit where Belarus and China will look to increase their ties.

The Belarus state-run media outlet Belarusian Telegraph Agency reported that Lukashenko will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss issues like trade, the economy, investment, humanitarian cooperation and responding to international “challenges.” The two countries are also expected to sign a document to declare cooperation in “key areas.”

The visit comes as China has faced some international scrutiny over its ties to Moscow amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. China has officially declared neutrality in the conflict, but U.S. officials have said China has sent Russia nonlethal aid and might also send lethal aid.

China has denied that it is actively supporting Russia, and U.S. officials have warned the Chinese government that it will face consequences if it does send lethal aid.

Beijing also put forward a ceasefire proposal earlier this month to end hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky indicated he is at least somewhat open to.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday during a visit to Kazakhstan that China cannot be seeking to both help Russia and arrange a deal for peace in the region, CNN reported.

“China can’t have it both ways when it comes to … the Russian aggression in Ukraine. It can’t be putting forward peace proposals on the one hand, while actually feeding the flames of the fire that Russia has started with the other hand,” Blinken said.

Lukashenko has also been one of the most vocal defenders from the international community of Russian President Vladimir Putin, having been a close ally of Putin for many years. He has also maintained close relations with China.

The Belarusian government allowed Russian troops to gather in its territory ahead of the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine last February.

The New York Times reported that Lukashenko told reporters that the United States is trying to rally anti-Chinese attitudes in Europe.

“We understand that the Americans are pushing Europe to go down the anti-Chinese path,” he said on Belarusian state media. “Europe is resisting — and rightly so, because if they fence themselves off from China, and God forbid they also come into conflict with China as America is also pressing — Europe will disappear.”

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a press briefing on Monday ahead of Lukashenko’s arrival that the visit is “very much in line” with the concerns that U.S. officials have had about the relationship between China and Russia.

“But the fact that the [People’s Republic of China] is now engaging with Lukashenka, who has, in effect, ceded his own sovereignty to Russia, is just another element of the PRC’s deepening engagement with Russia, with all of those who are engaged with and supporting Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine,” he said.

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