China has refused to condemn Russia's attack on Ukraine Thursday, instead repeating calls for parties to "exercise restraint" and accusing the United States of "fueling fire" in the tensions.
In a Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefing that went on for more than 90 minutes, spokesperson and Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Hua Chunying dodged more than 11 questions regarding Russia's actions in Ukraine. They included repeated inquiries on whether Beijing would consider Russia's acts an invasion and whether they violated Ukraine's territorial integrity.
Hua added that China would begin importing Russian wheat, a move that could ease the impact of Western sanctions on Russia.
"The Ukraine issue has a very complicated historical background. It has evolved to the present situation due to the joint action of various factors ... security should be a matter of joint cooperation and sustainable security, and the legitimate security concerns of all parties should be respected and addressed," Hua said sticking closely to comments made the previous day.
China is "closely following the latest situation" and calls on parties to "exercise restraint to avoid the situation getting out of control," Hua said repeatedly.
After questions from multiple media on whether China considered Russia's moves an invasion, Hua asked reporters, "Why are you obsessed with this question?
"You can ask the US side. They keep fueling fires ... You can ask them if they have any plans to put out the fire."
On Thursday, China's customs administration also said they would begin allowing wheat imports as of February 24 from Russia. The two countries had announced an agreement earlier this month for China to import Russian wheat during Putin's visit to Beijing to meet with President Xi and attend the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The China-Russia friendship: Beijing is navigating a complex position as it attempts to balance deepening ties with Moscow with its practiced foreign policy of staunchly defending state sovereignty.
Though not military allies, China and Russia have been presenting an increasingly united front in the face of what they view as Western interference into their respective affairs and regions.