As Russia moved troops in Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed tensions in the region with his Chinese counterpart in a phone call on Feb. 22.
The call came after Beijing and Moscow declared a “no limits” friendship earlier this month.
Blinken spoke with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi about Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine during the call, U.S. spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
“The Secretary underscored the need to preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to the brief statement.
Hours before the call, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces into two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine after recognizing them as independent. The move escalated fears of full-scale Russian invasion, drawing strong condemnation from the West. The United States said Tuesday it would place additional sanctions in response to Russia’s action.
The Chinese regime is following the situation in Ukraine, said Wang, according to a readout from China’s foreign ministry.
Wang told Blinken that Beijing’s stance on the Ukraine issue is “consistent,” adding “the legitimate security concerns of any country should be respected.”
Wang said the regime called on all sides to “exercise restraint,” continuing to refrain from taking a clear side between Russia and Ukraine, despite the united front Beijing and Moscow displayed a few weeks ago.
Putin met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the opening day of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. During the summit, the two leaders proclaimed a “no limits” friendship and issued an over 5,000-word joint statement in a show of solidarity.
They highlighted their opposition to what they called “interference in the internal affairs” by “other states,” and also protested the enlargement of NATO.
Russia has long denied any plan to attack Ukraine, but has threatened unspecified “military-technical” action unless it receives sweeping security guarantees, including a promise that its neighbor will never join NATO.
In a separate statement on Tuesday, Beijing’s ministry said Wang told Blinken during the phone call that the regime opposed the United States’ inclusion of Taiwan in its Indo-Pacific strategy.
This month, the United States said it would commit more diplomatic and security resources to the Indo-Pacific, and vowed to work with partners both in and outside the region to maintain peace and stability in the strait dividing Taiwan from China.
The Chinese regime, which has never renounced the use of force to seize Taiwan, said the action is sending all the “wrong signals” to the self-ruled island.
The State Department made no mention of Taiwan in its readout of the call.
According to the official statement from both sides, Blinken and Wang also spoke about North Korea.
Reuters contributed to this report.