Blinken: 'Deep concern' that China could provide lethal support for Russia's war in Ukraine

Petr David Josek/AP Photo

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday that China offered “no apology” for flying a spy balloon over the U.S. and the Biden administration has “very real concerns” that China is contemplating providing material support to Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.

In an interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press” conducted after America’s top diplomat met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Blinken said he could not characterize what was said in the meeting, but “I can tell you, no, there was no apology.”

“This was an opportunity to speak very clearly and very directly about the fact that China sent a surveillance balloon over our territory, violating our sovereignty, violating international law. And I told him quite simply that that was unacceptable and can never happen again,” Blinken added.

Blinken quickly segued into the United States' “deep concern” that China is considering providing potentially lethal supplies to Russia in their renewed offensive against Ukraine.


“We've seen already over these past months the provision of nonlethal assistance that does go directly to aiding and abetting Russia's war effort. And some further information that we are sharing today, and that I think will be out there soon, that indicates that they are strongly considering providing lethal assistance to Russia,” Blinken said.

Speaking earlier Saturday at the Munich conference in Germany, Vice President Kamala Harris said Russia has committed “crimes against humanity” in Ukraine and is responsible for a “widespread and systematic attack” against Ukraine’s civilian population — citing evidence of execution-style killings, rape, torture and forceful deportations.

Wang, who spoke after Harris at the conference, publicly slammed the U.S. response to the balloon that overflew the country as a “weak” and “near-hysterical” reaction; he also accused the U.S. of warmongering.

On China potentially aiding Russia’s war effort, Blinken said: “We see China considering this; we have not seen them cross that line. So I think it's important that we make clear, as I did this evening in my meeting with Wang Yi, that this is something that is of deep concern to us. And I made clear the importance of not crossing that line, and the fact that it would have serious consequences in our own relationship, something that we do not need on top of the balloon incident that China's engaged in.”

Pressed further by Margaret Brennan on CBS News’ “Face The Nation” on what would constitute lethal support to Russia’s war effort, Blinken replied: “Weapons. … Primarily weapons.”

“There's a whole gamut of things that fit in that category, everything from ammunition to the weapons themselves,” he added.

Blinken said the U.S. has concerns over Chinese companies potentially providing equipment to Russian-backed mercenary groups operating in Ukraine, including the Wagner Group.

“To date, we have seen Chinese companies and of course, in China, there's really no distinction between private companies and the state. We have seen them provide non-lethal support to Russia for use in Ukraine. The concern that we have now is based on information we have that they're considering providing lethal support,” he said.

Blinken characterized the U.S. relationship with China as “competitive” and “among the most consequential but also complex relationships that we have,” adding that “we have a strong interest in trying to manage the relationship responsibly, and to make sure, to the best of our ability, that competition doesn't veer into conflict or into cold war.”