US officials told media that Russia had requested military equipment and support from its key ally.
Moscow also asked Beijing for economic assistance against the crippling sanctions imposed against it by most of the Western world, the New York Times said, again citing anonymous officials.
The officials declined to explain exactly what Russia had requested, or whether China had responded, according to the reports.
A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington told multiple outlets “I’ve never heard of that” when asked about the alleged requests.
The reports came just a few hours after the White House announced a high-level US delegation would meet with a top Chinese official in Rome today.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Yang Jiechi, the Chinese Communist Party’s chief diplomat, “will discuss ongoing efforts to manage the competition between our two countries and discuss the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on regional and global security,” National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said yesterday in a statement.
Beijing has declined to directly condemn Moscow for launching its invasion, and has repeatedly blamed NATO’s “eastward expansion” for worsening tensions between Russia and Ukraine, echoing the Kremlin’s prime security grievance.
Sullivan made a round of Sunday talk shows to say the White House was “watching closely” to see whether China provides material or economic support to Russia to help it evade the punishing impact of sanctions.
“It is a concern of ours, and we have communicated to Beijing that we will not stand by and allow any country to compensate Russia for its losses from the economic sanctions,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” show.
Sullivan said that while he did not wish to “brandish threats” against major economic rival China, “we are communicating directly, privately to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions-evasion efforts.”
Beijing said this past week that its friendship with Russia remains “rock solid” despite international condemnation of Moscow, and has expressed an openness to help mediate an end to the war.